September 2017

“WILLIAM BLAKE AND THE AGE OF AQUARIUS”

Wallace Berman, untitled, 1958, gelatin silver print with transfer type mounted on board, sheet size 7 1/8 5 7/8”. Estate of Wallace Berman and Kohn Gallery, Los Angeles.

BLOCK MUSEUM OF ART AT NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY
EVANSTON, ILLINOIS
Through March 11, 2018
Curated by Stephen F. Eisenman

This erudite Summer of Love golden-anniversary exhibition places the Beat-generation muse, proto-hippie, politically radical poet-engraver, and generally unclassifiable William Blake in the context of twentieth-century American art and popular culture. Exuberance is beauty! Identifying Allen Ginsberg, Agnes Martin, Maurice Sendak, counterculture communards, and the Fugs (to name a few) as Blake’s successors, the show features more than fifty of Blake’s engravings, etchings, watercolors, and illustrations, as well as some 150 paintings, drawings, photographs, film clips, and LPs from the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s. The accompanying catalogue includes startling, if apt, pairings, putting Blake’s watercolor Jacob’s Dream, ca. 1789–1806, opposite a 1967 Victor Moscoso poster for the Doors. Similarly, Blake’s radiant The Dance of Albion, 1795, and his monstrous miniature The Ghost of a Flea, ca. 1819–20, are juxtaposed, respectively, with two of Wallace Berman’s 1958 untitled portraits of Jay DeFeo and a still from Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954).

— J. Hoberman