Psychedelic art (also known as psychedelia) is art, graphics or visual displays related to or inspired by psychedelic experiences and hallucinations known to follow the ingestion of psychedelic substances such as LSD, psilocybin (found in magic mushrooms) and DMT.
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The word “psychedelic” (coined by British psychologist Humphry Osmond) means “manifestation of the mind.” According to this definition, any artistic effort to depict the inner world of the psyche can be considered “psychedelic.”
The birth of psychedelic art.
Psychedelia had its beginning in the 1960s and was associated with the intense hippie movement, which opened the hearts and minds of artists, musicians and philosophers. The sensations that arise after consuming magic mushrooms or other psychedelics are expressed through altered states of perception of one’s mind. Artists began to create a hitherto unknown reality, activating hitherto dormant areas of their minds. Distortions, color intensifications, mesmerizing fractals and surreal images began to fill the art field as well. Psychedelic aesthetics favored intensely contrasting colors, which had the ability to induce vibrations upon looking at the artwork in question, a clear reference to a trip (standing after taking LSD, for example). Psychedelic art was also significantly influenced by Surrealism and elements of Art Nouveau, which built the expression of the genre.
The cradle of psychedelic counterculture was San Francisco. It was there that the first psychedelic posters promoting music legends such as Jefferson Airplane and Big Brother and the Holding Company were created, thanks to thriving cultural centers gathering around music clubs such as the Fillmore West and the Avalon Ballroom. Simultaneous advances in technology-namely, the displacement of lithographic printing to the stuff of offset printing-have provided many new opportunities that have been fully exploited by psychedelic artists.
Leading poster artists include Rick Griffin, Bonnie MacLean, Alton Kelley, Wes Willson and Victor Moscoso. The latter created psychedelic works using comic elements, and his international career began with the famous “Summer of Love” festival in 1967. Willson, on the other hand, was the author of the dissolving, melting type so characteristic of the work of the time.
Bright colors, strong saturations, distortions, rubber fonts, collages and a lot of symmetry all characterized the California poster community, which supported musical events, called for social change and visualized the anti-war movement.
In addition to San Francisco, London was also significant. There op-art was born, which depicted patterns that created optical illusions; the most famous painter of the time was Bridget Riley.
The phonographic market also boasted outstanding psychedelic album covers. Of particular note here are the Miles Davis Jazz-Rock fusion albums, which Mati Klarwein marked with his vision. And Hipgnosis designers provided graphic support for Pink Floyd albums.
Let’s remember that “Poles are not geese…”, the Polish precursor of psychedelic art was Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz – Witkacy. We encourage you to explore his biography and works.