Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Rock My World

Rock My World
By Tom Wachunas

“Picture yourself in a boat on a river, with tangerine trees and marmalade skies. Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly, a girl with kaleidoscope eyes…” – John Lennon/Paul McCartney, from “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” –

My first year at Ohio State (1969-70) was an engulfment in pure, unmitigated culture shock: small-town boy, after two years of disciplined Catholic seminary living (where the school uniform was priestly black cassock and white Roman collar) enters a bizarre parallel universe. Here, High Mass incense was replaced by wafting plumes of cannabis smoke, and Latin polyphonic choirs were forever drowned out by the sacred howls of Morrison and Hendrix and Zeppelin and... By spring quarter I sported a terribly scruffy beard, had sworn off haircuts, and otherwise had become a card-carrying member of the dreaded “counter culture,” where frayed bell bottom jeans, love beads, sandals, and patchwork paisley shirts (if any shirts at all) were de rigueur. Power to the People. Go with the flow. Be here now. Make love not war. Don’t bogart that joint, my friend. Far out, man.

I remember from those days a fellow art student who was gaga over his ample collection of Toulouse-Lautrec posters and their eerily liquid depictions of seamy Paris nightlife. These he lovingly interspersed among his equally copious collection of rock concert posters. Very apropos, when considering how Lautrec was among the very first 19th century artists to employ the then newly mechanized lithographic presses that mass-produced eminently artful posters to advertise popular entertainers and venues.

Sheesh…talk about flashbacks. These memories came rushing back in full psychedelic glory when I recently saw the current exhibit of 60s and 70s rock posters at First Row Centre for the Arts in Greentown, on view through February. This deja-vu-all-over-again show features the electrifying and magical vintage rock-era art of Carl Lundgren, whose concert posters covered the Detroit scene, as well as more than 100 posters from the impressive personal collection of native Ohioan John Bellas. Among those are works by legendary artists of the genre, including Gary Grimshaw, Alton Kelly, Stanley Mouse and Bonnie Maclean.

Roll another one, just like the other one. Er, uhm… Perhaps less density and more selectivity of product, along with putting the more pictorially ambitious posters in frames, would have gone further in spotlighting some of the truly spectacular gems of lithographic printing that are here. As it is, for those among us who have a lingering fondness for the era, there’s a delightfully nostalgic and impromptu feel to the crowded walls, somewhat recalling the Hippie paraphernalia shops of old.

And somewhere in traversing this rainbow forest of swirling faces and places, you might just hear the distant, sweet echoes of Joni Mitchell calling a generation to Woodstock: “…we are stardust, we are golden, and we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.”

First Row Centre for the Arts, located at 3140 State Street NW (corner of Cleveland Avenue) in Greentown is a unique, relatively new art gallery and performing arts venue that features a coffee shop and full bar. Open weekdays 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (10 p.m. on Thursdays) and Saturdays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. www.firstrowcfa.com

Photos: Top – Oakland Pop Festival, offset lithograph by Carl Lundgren ( courtesy Carl Lundgren Art Studio, www.carllundgren.com) / Bottom – The Yardbirds, The Doors, offset lithograph by Bonnie Maclean (courtesy www.classicposters.com)

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