Cool Medium: Art, Television & Psychedelia, 1960-1980

Paul Laffoley The Ultimate Quest, 1968

Paul Laffoley, The Ultimate Quest, 1968, oil, acrylic and hand applied vinyl lettering on canvas, 50 x 50 inches, Gift of the Estate of Paul Laffoley

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On View Oct 06, 2017 - Mar 11, 2018
Exhibition Location: Museum

With its absorbing electronic glow, color television captivated the American public when it entered homes in the 1960s. Media scholar Marshall McLuhan described it as a “cool” medium that draws the viewer in and induces "a subliminal state of Narcissus trance." This exhibition explores the ways in which television’s hypnotic properties intersect with visual art.

Drawn primarily from deCordova’s permanent collection, Cool Medium includes painting, photographs, and prints that relate to the visual language of the television screen and conditions of mass media culture. Exhibition themes include televisual perception; intersections with psychedelia and spirituality; and freedom and control in a media-saturated society. Some artists used the visual trickery of Op Art to simulate television’s mesmerizing qualities, while others borrowed psychedelic imagery to address issues of mind control and brainwashing associated with television. Other works express paranoia and the loss of self in the face of mass culture. Altogether, these artworks underscore the transfixing visions of many artists during the age of the television.

Organized by Sarah Montross, Associate Curator, with Scout Hutchinson, Curatorial Assistant.