Strange Days

Strange Days: Vinyl Aesthetics of the Psychedelic Era

Between the eyes and ears there lie,

The sounds of color,
And the light of a sigh.
And to hear the sun, what a thing to believe. 

But it's all around if we could but perceive.

The Moody Blues

"The Word"

With its roots in San Francisco in the mid-1960s, the Psychedelic movement marks a shift in social consciousness, music, and art. Following on the heels of the Beat Generation, who were a group of artists and writers with anti-establishment attitudes and who advocated for the use of hallucinogenic drugs, the psychedelic movement emerged in American counterculture as a response to the political and sociological climate created by the Vietnam War and the growing popularity of hallucinogenic drugs. LSD, or acid, in particular served as a catalyst for the movement, providing users with altered perceptions of reality, more vivid sensory experiences, and a sense of connectedness with nature and one another.

A major shift in music, and consequently album cover design, occurred as a result of the new experiences and perceptions produced through the use of psychedelic drugs. These altered states of reality inspired bands and cover designers to create an integrated audio-visual experience. Suddenly, the popular music album covers featuring photographs of the band or artist were replaced by an explosion of psychedelic designs. This transition is well-illustrated by the progression of the Beatles’ albums from the early 1960s to the release of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in 1967.

Distinguishing features of psychedelic art include the use of vivid colors, flowing organic patterns, energetic designs, strange or fantastic subject matter, and the joining of disparate times and cultures through photomontage. The influences of the Pop Art, Art Nouveau, and Surrealism movements are strong in the characteristic designs of Psychedelic era album cover art. 

Strange Days consists of 30 record albums organized by category (early designs, Pop Art, Surrealism, and Art Nouveau) Additional artifacts included a Life Magazine and three fine art prints, representing each of the three art movements explored through this exhibition. 

Recommended square/running footage: 600/120

Rental fee: $500 for 6-week rental period

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Contact: Peter Van Ael, NIU Certificate of Graduate Study in Museum Studies, [email protected], 815 753 4521