Psychedelic art refers to a style of visual art that emerged in the 1960s and was associated with the counterculture movement and the use of psychedelic drugs such as LSD, mescaline, and psilocybin. The term “psychedelic” comes from the Greek words “psyche,” meaning “mind,” and “deloun,” meaning “to reveal,” and reflects the belief that these drugs could reveal a deeper truth about the nature of reality.
The origins of psychedelic art can be traced back to the 1950s and the Beat Generation, a group of writers and poets who were interested in exploring altered states of consciousness and alternative forms of spirituality. Artists such as Wallace Berman, Bruce Conner, and Jess Collins began to experiment with collage and assemblage techniques that combined found objects, religious iconography, and popular culture imagery to create new and often subversive forms of art.
In the early 1960s, a new generation of artists emerged who were influenced by the growing popularity of psychedelic drugs and the counterculture movement. Artists such as Wes Wilson, Stanley Mouse, and Alton Kelley began to create posters and album covers for the emerging rock music scene in San Francisco, using bold colors, intricate patterns, and surreal imagery to create a visual language that reflected the experience of psychedelic drugs.
The most famous venue for this new style of art was the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco, where concerts featuring bands such as the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane were accompanied by elaborate light shows and psychedelic posters created by artists such as Victor Moscoso, Rick Griffin, and Bonnie MacLean.
As the 1960s progressed, psychedelic art became more widely recognized and began to influence popular culture more broadly. The cover of the Beatles’ album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” designed by Peter Blake and Jann Haworth, is perhaps the most iconic example of this trend, featuring a collage of famous figures from history and popular culture in a style that was heavily influenced by psychedelic art.
Today, psychedelic art continues to be a popular and influential style, with artists such as Alex Grey, Robert Venosa, and Martina Hoffmann creating visionary art that reflects a continued interest in exploring altered states of consciousness and the nature of reality. Despite its association with drugs and counterculture, psychedelic art has become a recognized and respected form of artistic expression that continues to inspire new generations of artists and art lovers alike.