[Photo by Sarah Mortimer]

[Photo by Sarah Mortimer]

Psychedelic Acid Trope

Jul 18, 2014

Reviewed Kate X Messer
published in Austin Chronicle on July 18, 2014

Close your eyes and say it out loud: "The Sixties."

It conjures a Peter Maxxed mod podge of peaceniks, beatniks, moptops in boots, mad men in suits, the black power fist, and Jackie doing the Twist, n'est­-ce pas? Few American decades are as imbued with meaning – some collective, much subjective – sparked by music, memory, word, and image as that tie­-dyed, skinny-tied, fuzzed-out, spy-­themed era.

In the sort of coincidence that some hippies might call kismet, three local institutions are currently flashing back to that decade: the Bullock Texas State History Museum with "The 1968 Exhibit" and "When Austin Got Weird," the LBJ Library and Museum with "Sixty From the '60s," and the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History with "The Power of His Camera: Spider Martin and the Civil Rights Movement." Any of them can stand on its own, but when taken together, they offer a strange and insightful brew.

The LBJ exhibit honors 60 influencers across political, civic, and entertainment arenas. Starting with 1967's Glassboro Summit, where LBJ and Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin explored options for peace in Vietnam, two empty chairs convey the casual proto-glasnost between the leaders, as well as the eerie discomfit of a world scarred by iron curtains and cold wars.

LBJ launches the queue, of course (it's his library, after all), with JFK across the way. The path of personalities mirrors the era's hard realities: It's 40 feet before any person of color is featured (MLK, Malcolm X, Thurgood Marshall) and another 30 before the first woman (Betty Friedan). Objects related to the subjects dot the floorspace: a life-sized Telstar model, Muhammed Ali's robe, Buzz Aldrin's Snoopy Cap (NASA communication headpiece resembling Snoopy's World War I aviator helmet), a model of Bucky Fuller's Triton City intended for Baltimore Harbor, and a playable retrofitted jukebox (built into the shell of a 1978 Rock-Ola Sybaris that looks very "Sixties"). read more