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

Installation view, Cool Medium: Art, Television & Psychedelia, 1960-1980, deCord
Click images for larger view
On View Oct 06, 2017 - Mar 11, 2018
Exhibition Location: Museum - Second Floor

2nd Floor Galleries

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." Color television's saturated hues and entrancing qualities paralleled the growing psychedelic culture of the time, as vivid colors and patterns were connected to experiences resulting from consciousness-expanding drugs and other mind-opening substances. This exhibition explores ways in which the hypnotic properties of both cultural phenomena intersect with contemporaneous developments in art.

Drawn primarily from deCordova’s permanent collection, Cool Medium includes paintings, video, photographs, and prints that relate to the visual language of the television screen and 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 illusions 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 within mass media. Altogether, these artworks underscore the transfixing visions of many artists during the age of the television.

Artists in the exhibition:

Yaacov Agam, David Akiba, Richard Anuszkiewicz, Stephen Beck, Hannes Beckmann, Charles Biederman, Jan Ehrenworth, Len Gittleman, Sante Graziani, Aaronel de Roy Gruber, Paul Laffoley, William Leete, Terri Priest, Alan Shields, John Stephan, Harold Tovish

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

Cool Medium is presented as part of a citywide partnership of arts and educational institutions organized to recognize the outsized role greater Boston has played in the history and development of technology. The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston has initiated this partnership to link concurrent exhibitions and programs related to the themes of the exhibition Art in the Age of the Internet, 1989 to Today, on view at the ICA from February 7–May 20, 2018. To learn more about the partnership, click here.

Press Release

Cool Mosaics: Psychedelic Glass Mandala Workshop

Tuesdays, November 7 and November 21 (two-part workshop), 6:30–9 pm each day
Inspired by the art of Paul Laffoley and other visionary artists in Cool Medium: Art, Television & Psychedelia, 1960-1980, create cool mosaic mandalas inspired by the psychedelic images in this dynamic exhibition.

Curator-led Tour of Cool Medium

Thursday, January 18, 12 pm
Join Curatorial Assistant Scout Hutchinson for an in-depth look at a selection of works on display in Cool Medium: Art, Television & Psychedelia, 1960-1980. Learn how artists were producing artwork during a time when color television and psychedelic culture emerged and captivated the American public.

Psychedelic Cinema

Friday, February 2, 6:30 pm
Join us for Psychedelic Cinema, a collection of vibrant, hallucinatory films from the late 1960s created by experimental filmmaker Ken Brown. The screening will be accompanied by retro hits from a live DJ, related art activities, snacks, and a cash bar.

Cool Medium Gallery Conversation with Alexis Turner

Thursday, February 22, 6:30 pm
In this gallery conversation, Alexis Turner, Ph.D. candidate at Harvard University, shares insights into public battles over LSD as a political technology during the mid-to-late twentieth century. (Free admission)