There is currently a multitude of gems here UNCG, and Weatherspoon Art Museum is a gold mine. The museum is currently running a gorgeous exhibit of art that reflects the political and social atmosphere at the time of the 1960’s. With themes ranging from the Civil Rights Movement to toxic masculinity, this survey of the decade is a must-see for any student with an interest in art and history.
Consisting of dozens of pop culture pieces of legends like The Beatles and James Brown, the exhibit sews together a faint view into the ‘60’s. An Andy Warhol painting of Elizabeth Taylor is an immediate standout, with Warhol’s trademark iconography and vibrant colors popping off of the canvas, illuminating the space in front of the piece.
The meaning behind the painting has only grown stronger over the past few decades, as our idolization of celebrities has also grown with it.
Another piece depicts what a “perfect” family looked like in the ‘60’s during a day at the beach. Based on a postcard from Daytona Beach, this art reflects the typical gender roles that were accepted in society at that time. A father and son are shirtless, enjoying the sun and goofing off while mother and daughter are prim and proper in beach gowns, enjoying a book and conversation.
This skewed family structure was a huge part of ‘60’s culture when the American Dream was still a huge motivator for Americans to settle down.
The darker side of the ‘60’s is also depicted throughout the art exhibit, not shying away from the ugly truths of the decade. One piece that stands out in this regard is “Sperm Bomb” done with gouache and ink on paper by Nancy Spero. A bit tongue-in-cheek, this art only looks like a typical mushroom cloud at first glance. Upon further inspection, however, it can be seen that the mushroom cloud is made up of swirling and diving spirits screaming obscenities.
Intentionally phallic in nature, the spirits also resemble the shape of the male reproductive organs.
The message behind this piece stresses the male capacity to incite conflict and how at this time mostly men were fighting in wars. This anomalous art was sure to conjure up a stir back in the ‘60’s and can still be applied to our current times.
Perhaps the most important factor behind this exquisite exhibit is the parallels between the 1960’s and our modern day. The ‘60’s were a time of social revolution, a musical renaissance, fear of nuclear war with Russia and chaos. By taking an afternoon to step into the past, we can learn so much about our present and perhaps even ourselves. The power of art is something we must always treasure, and the past is the best teacher for what to do in the future.
“The 1960’s: A Survey of the Decade” will run through next February 2019 in Weatherspoon Art Museum, giving everyone plenty of time to experience this incredible blast from the past.