Past Exhibitions

"Robert Hirsch's 60's Cubed: Signs, Symbols, and Celebrities"

October 1 through December 6, 2012
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Robert Hirsch’s exhibition, The Sixties Cubed: Signs, Symbols, and Celebrities, includes numerous photomontages, a Timeline, Button Women, rotating Mobile, monolithic Peace Sign, and Brion Gysin’s flickering, hypnotic Dream Machine. The installations will help baby boomers and fans of the era reconstruct the past through histories, stories, and confessions.

Academically, the installations provide stimulus for group discussions, student research, and critical thinking regarding the highs and lows of this unique American history. As we evaluate this era through numerous disciplines and interdisciplinary study, one critical question stands out: After distillation through time, what transformations remain pure and essential to the American Spirit and why? What new laws or norms remain works in progress? What cultural remnants remain popular and what fads fell short and fizzled?

Robert Hirsch describes and interprets his dynamic and provocative exhibition:

The Sixties Cubed installations re-envision the American zeitgeist with images that are presented in 4 x 4 x 4-inch transparent boxes. The project’s inventory of 40,000 images was brought together over three years of collecting in the public realm, gleaned from such publications as Avant Garde, Ebony, Life, Look, The New York Times, Newsweek, Playboy, Popular Mechanics, Popular Science, Ramparts, The Saturday Evening Post, Time, and Vogue. Additional sources encompass yearbooks, the Internet, and photographs I made during that era. The themes are comprised of the arts, politics, popular culture, science, and daily life, as exemplified by ads for beauty aids, cars, clothes, cigarettes, food, and liquor that during a period of rising consumerism encouraged people to buy into the American Dream.


Why the 1960s?

No decade in recent U.S. history has reverberated and been mythologized more than the 1960s. This venture explores how visual media interacts with the exceptional as well as daily life. The show…presents how Baby Boomers, those born approximately between 1946 and 1960, challenged the traditional values of the “Silent Majority.” My purpose is not one of historical archivist or nostalgia, but rather to visually connect the past and the present to ponder the future…. In this sense, this venture offers a visual representation of our collective societal memory of that era. Its open, pictographic storytelling format encourages viewers to ponder how this decade affects who we are today.

Defining the 1960s

Regardless of your political persuasion, the ‘60s was an age of extreme polarity… On one hand there was John F. Kennedy’s New Frontier with its sense of idealist public service including the Peace Corps, the physical fitness program, and the challenge to place a man on the moon. During this decade the Civil Rights Movement culminated with the March on Washington and Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech. This led into Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society that implemented the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, the War on Poverty as well as environmental and consumer protections. It was a period of middle-class, economic expansion. Women and minorities confronted societal standards to build a more humane and open nation with expanded personal freedoms. One overarching theme that defined this turbulent decade was an intense drive by a minority counterculture to generate alternatives to conventional institutions and social customs. At its best, the 1960s was a chapter of new possibilities.

Conversely, the assassinations of John Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Robert Kennedy, plus the murders of African-Americans and civil rights workers, cast a very dark shadow, as did the Vietnam War. President Johnson’s escalation of the war led to the drafting of hundreds of thousands of young men into service and an estimated 2,500,000 civilian and military casualties. Inner city riots and antiwar protests took place along with hedonistic and nihilistic extremes, as exemplified by the Rolling Stones concert in Altamont and the Charles Manson Family murders…. For countless Americans, it was a chaotic and uncertain period of rising anxiety and disenchantment during which their familiar societal values came under siege.

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