Music is very powerful.
The Sixties: Photographs by Robert Altman at Idea Generation Gallery
LONDON.- The Idea Generation Gallery invites you to take a trip…down Memory Lane, through Haight-Ashbury and across Golden Gate Park to turn on, tune in, drop out at the naked love-ins and anti-war sit-ins; at the psychedelic be-ins and the politicized happenings and meditate upon the spirit, body and soul of The Sixties - the first UK exhibition from Robert Altman, chief staff photographer of Rolling Stone, at Idea Generation Gallery (on view through 29th August.)
The exhibition brings together 60 of the most powerful images from Altman’s extensive portfolio. As one of the lead Rolling Stone photographers in the magazine’s heyday of the late sixties and early seventies, Altman’s exquisitely candid shots capture the luminaries of every sphere of influence – from politics and music through to the everyday revolutionaries and children of free love – and creates an extraordinary photographic journey through the historic moments of political; social and cultural revolution that have come to define ‘The Sixties’.
Altman’s images provide the ultimate visual narrative to the era; when the contradictory forces & emotions of nascent hippy idealism and free love ran parallel to revolution, radicalism and civil unrest, all of it underscored by an unerring optimism, and a belief - born out of frustration at the status quo, the government and The Man - that change was both necessary and within their grasp.
Altman takes us on a journey through his Sixties - from the very epicenter of the scene as a Rolling Stone photographer - introducing us to the key players on the way. Whether getting us a front row seat at some of the best gigs (including many iconic Rolling Stone front covers); or rallying us to march alongside the protesters; or letting it all hang out with the flower children indulging in some free-love to boot, Altman’s Sixties is the one we all wish we had lived through.
FREE LOVE - Flowers in their hair; wandering free in the Elysian fields of California – the ‘free love’ ideal of the 60’s is one of the most resonant and revered legacies of the period. In a world often consumed with violence and anger, Flower Children – or hippies – put love and sex at the core of everything natural and harmonious. Altman’s own portraits are a testament to the age of innocence, beauty and joy that hippies have come to represent.
THE POLITICS - If there was one thing the Sixties taught its children, it was that they had the power to change the world. And change it they did. As millions of people rose up in protest to fight for what they believed was right across the world, the spirit of revolution manifested itself in a very specific way in America. With their men fighting an unwanted war in Vietnam; and their own racial segregation; the young of the U.S. picked up on the revolt sweeping through the students and streets of Europe and ran with it in their own unique way.
From Jane Fonda at an anti-war rally; to the mass throngs staging be-ins, Altman captures the spirit of revolution as it surged through the country, showing these moments of anarchy and rebellion as they were – passionate; dedicated; thunderous; and in so many cases, effective.
THE PEOPLE The infamous ‘counter-culture’ that has come to define the Sixties in America wouldn’t have existed without certain key people that were making it happen. Jann Wenner, the founder and publisher of Rolling Stone pioneered journalism that tackled what was happening in the world head on; throwing aside diplomacy and reverence and giving voice to every concern, agitation and protest that its readers felt.
Dennis Hopper’s performance in Easy Rider immortalized the drug culture that was taking place in film, whilst Ken Kesey was living it. Bobby Seale and Kathleen Cleaver fought for rights for African-American’s, while Cesar Chavez led the way for farm workers. Altman’s images are a catalogue of the influencers, opinion formers and icons of the Sixties, capturing them as they did their bit to shape the increasingly extraordinary world they were living in.
THE MUSIC - If the Sixties were about revolution and rebirth, there was no greater evidence of this than on the music scene.
The British invaded America; psychedelia reigned on the West Coast; Beat poets and avant-garde artists took to the stage at Andy Warhol’s Factory and The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan changed the face of popular music for good. The Sixties contains landmark images – many of which made the front cover of Rolling Stone - of some of music’s biggest stars, including Mick Jagger; Joni Mitchell, Roger Daltrey, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Eric Clapton, Tina Turner; Elton John and numerous others in performance; in conversation.
“For me, The Sixties is the time of Sgt Pepper, Woodstock, the Summer of Love, be-ins, anti-war protests, and everything else in between,” comments Altman. “Part of the magic of The Sixties was that we knew there were thousands and thousands, perhaps millions, of us spread beyond the United States and all across the world,” observes Altman. “I absolutely knew that this was something different and something very special. Those days were unlike any our generation had even heard of before, much less experienced. You might say we lit the fuse to the Roaring Twentieth Century.”
“It's said that The Sixties, and much of what it stood for, began to unravel at the Altamont gig in ‘69 - and that's probably not far from the truth. However, when you look at Robert's images, you realize that the spirit of the sixties will always be alive in these images. He’s captured so many aspects of the era so cleanly, that you practically feel you are there. And I think that's the greatest compliment that you can pay to him; he's ensured that the sixties and what it represented to him & his contemporaries, will endure for as long as we look at these pictures.”