America in Revolt: The Art Of Protest is a new London exhibition of original posters and artwork created by students and activists during the landmark ‘Berkeley demonstrations’ in California in the early 1970s. Drawn from the archive of the late publisher Felix Dennis, and curated by the revered writer and counterculture historian Barry Miles, the collection is comprised of more than 150 posters, each one capturing the incendiary spirit of that time.
While the demonstrations were initially sparked by the massacre of four unarmed student protesters at Kent State University by the Ohio National Guard on May 4th, 1970, they were also a response to the reinstatement of the military draft by President Nixon, and the escalation of the Vietnam War into Cambodia.
AMERICA IN REVOLT: THE ART OF PROTEST is made up of 50 works from the Felix Dennis collection, which was recently acquired by Shapero Rare Books. All of the posters demonstrate the swift organisation of the student body. Just days after the Kent State shooting, the Berkeley Political Poster Workshop, made up of art, design and political students, took over a small space donated by
a sympathetic contingent of the faculty. Here they quickly disseminated their message through an ad-hoc production line. Posters were silkscreened onto recycled computer paper and psychedelic calendars; others went straight onto cardboard to be used immediately at demonstrations.
Only a few of each of these posters were made and most did not survive, such was their immediate necessity. They are supplemented by supporting material outlining the atmosphere of unrest in America including works illustrating solidarity with Vietnamese civilians, details of American weapons, and questions over President Nixon’s integrity.
Curator Barry Miles says: ‘These posters were not designed as art, but for a specific political purpose, and yet they inevitably fit into the history of graphic art, borrowing heavily from the Atelier Populaire posters of the student uprising in Paris of May 1968 and the counter-cultural posters of the period. They are a frozen snapshot of American graphic design at the end of the sixties, as well as a unique sociological record of a society in crisis.’
Barry Miles: Miles is an English author known for his participation in and writing on the subjects of the 1960s London underground and counterculture. He is the author of numerous books and his work has also regularly appeared in many newspapers, including The Guardian and The Times. In the 1960s he helped start the independent newspaper International Times. In 1965 Allen Ginsberg gave a reading at Better Books, where Miles worked, that led to the International Poetry Incarnation, a seminal event co-organised by Miles – in the same year, Miles and his wife, introduced The Beatle Paul McCartney to hash brownies by using a recipe for hash fudge that they had found in The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook. Following the International Poetry Incarnation, Miles established the Indica Gallery and Bookshop, allowing him to meet many of the stars of the Swinging London social scene. Miles brought McCartney into contact with people who wanted to start International Times, which McCartney helped to fund. With John Hopkins and Dave Howson, Miles organised The 14 Hour Technicolor Dream, a concert on 29th April 1967 at Alexandra Palace to raise funds for International Times. It was a multi-artist event, featuring poets, artists and musicians. Pink Floyd headlined the event, and other artists included Yoko Ono and John Lennon, Arthur Brown, jazz-rock group Soft Machine, Tomorrow and The Pretty Things. Miles became the de facto manager of the Apple’s short-lived Zapple Records label in 1969.
Miles’ book Hippie is a reminiscence of the Hippie sub-culture of the 1960s and early 1970s, with interviews, quotes, and images. He co-wrote I Want to Take You Higher (documenting the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum exhibit by the same name) with Charles Perry and James Henke. He also wrote Paul McCartney’s official biography, Many Years from Now (1998), and has written biographies of Frank Zappa, John Lennon, William S. Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, Charles Bukowski and Ginsberg, in addition to books on The Beatles, Pink Floyd and The Clash, as well as a definitive history of London’s counterculture since 1945, London Calling. Miles currently lives in London and is married to travel writer Rosemary Bailey.
AMERICA IN REVOLT: THE ART OF PROTEST February 3nd – February 27th, 2016 Shapero Modern London