Monday, March 1, 2010

Presenting The 60's In A Contemporary Light

Exhibition Title: Journeying the Sixties: A Counterculture Tarot
Location: The Art House Gallery and Community Center, Berkeley, CA 94705
Dates: Thru April 1, 2010

Harold Adler is a Berkeley Photographer who photographed for The Berkeley Barb and other publications in the 1960's. In my video interview with him, he describes the problematic eminent domain issue that the University of California, Berkeley inflicted upon its community. Many beautiful homes were converted into a large “mud pit” that eventually became a parking lot due to poorly allocated funding. Harold intensely photographed the process of creating People’s Park in the late 1960's.

Through April 1st, The Art House Gallery and Community Center at 2905 Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley, California is showing the photography of William Cook Haigwood. Mr. Haigwood worked for The Berkeley Gazette in the 1960's (usually had a press pass and wasn’t hassled as much as Harold by the police) and like his colleague had captured much of the peace, love, and police brutality that followed the political movements in Berkeley that helped create People’s Park.

Haigwood’s work is presented in traditional Tarot form. Familiar, however now archaic, urban elements of flower power, the civil rights movement, and blatant examples of early Reagonomic policy make this work series political satire as well as a relevant historical archive. A real Tarot deck, with seventy-eight images in all, the 8 x 10 black and white photographs are hilarious, jaw dropping, and sometimes completely shocking, even to today’s standards. I feel nostalgia for modernist California, full of young baby boomers, who seemed to own the planet at that time. Certain elements of the urban landscape are simply unimaginable today, other than in a historical perspective.

Each of Haigwood’s photographic historical tarot representations is accompanied by a comparative analysis by the artist, which leads to a sense of history and happening — spiritual, metaphysical, political, or what have you. I am offering you three of my favorite examples.

I. Magician

Haigwood uses his famous portrait of Dr. Leary to represent the Magician of the Tarot. Dr. Leary was the foremost theorist of his time regarding the metaphysics and transcendental nature of psychedelic drugs such as L.S.D.

William Cook Haigwood, 1967

VII. The Chariot

Hippie parades up and down the Haight Ashbury District in San Francisco, California actually became commonplace happenings in Golden Gate Park, and around the neighborhood in the late 1960's. Haigwood captures a bare-chested man with some days growth of beard. He carries a stack of 2 x 4s supporting plywood, holding a toilet used as a vase for a bouquet.

William Cook Haigwood, 1965

X. The Wheel

In Tarot the wheel is often a metaphor for the zodiac, the cosmos, or even the Milky Way.

“The Tarot’s wheel is a wheel of fortune, the certain course of human life along an uncertain path.”

William Cook Haigwood

The work displays a sleeved elbow of a man checking his 35mm on the left foreground and to the right, a man who in another time or place could have seemed like a medieval priest (mop top hairdo and goatee beard) possibly carrying his UCB notes. Behind him is a peace sign on a wooden wall projection from a brick building and stands next to a young woman who could pass for a flower child, rose petals at her feet. There is a large crowd behind the long-shirted goateed gentleman, who are apparently students going to class, a familiar sight on Telegraph Avenue today, The element with the skirted woman enjoying the weather in front of the peace sign seems captivating, perhaps indicating a local radical hot spot.

Haigwood uses the wheel as a much larger metaphor for how society will eventually push capitalism and nuclear war at him as he continues to walk his path of uncertainty. As an anti-war sentiment, Haigwood clearly defines the Hindu Wheel of Karmic Motion. The metaphor here is to let go entirely is to exist, therefore, “there is no way out of war but to end it.” This makes sense in light of today’s problematic foreign war policy.

The Art House Gallery is indeed a silly place where silver haired baby-boomers attending fundraisers, listen to 1960's era cover bands and frolic and boogie. 1960's counter-culturalists, cultural preservationists, and archivists in books, media, galleries, and museums have popularized both Adler and Haigwood.



  1. Tony Labat


    This is the link to the utube video interview with Harold Adler.