Summer of love

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No breaking news, folks, rather the title of an exhibition at the Whitney Museum I attended last week along with hundreds of members who were promised a free ounce of cheap white wine if they could squeeze their way to the bar downstairs while trying to ignore the strains of Donovan himself – live, after all these years.

Not having been born until a few years after the particular summer of love referred to in the exhibition’s title (1967), I was a bit nonplussed by the cumulative effect of the walls covered in advertising and promotional memorabilia from the era – tour posters, album covers and concert photographs – and pieces of early multimedia art that were all about repeated pschedelic patterns (think droplets of oil smeared over glass and filmed – crazy, man). I walked into one room and found aging baby-boomers literally laid out on the floor in front of huge video screens, watching the looped film and reliving their respective comings-of-age. It was embarrassing. I wondered what I’ll be ogling nostalgically at a museum in 30 years.

I attended the exhibition with someone who was very much in his adolescence during the Summer of Love, and he found the show as tedious and empty as I did. Much more interesting were his stories of parties ending in fisticuffs over the Vietnam War, or being physically threatened on a Manhattan street for sporting shoulder-length hair. These were years of social and political upheaval, of war and assassinations. But you would never suspect it from this show. There’s a thoughtful review here by the New York Times’ Holland Cotter.

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