PRINT March 1984


Standing in line at the bank: what if this
Were on TV? What if we were all on mescalin?

—Michael Brownstein, from “43 Cents a Quart”

PSYCHEDELIC ART IS, UH, smoking a banana. In a holder.

Psychedelic art is, as Tallulah Bankhead said of something else, where “there is less to this than meets the eye.”

Or is it I. Psychedelic art is art that helps you lose your ego—but what if somebody else finds it?

“When any society really manages to couple ‘Art’ with drugging and drugs with ‘Religion,’ the result is, inevitably a ‘Holy’/WHOLLY WAR of one kind or another.” (Stan Brakhage, letter to Jonas Mekas, September 1967; in Brakhage Scrapbooks, ed. Robert Haller, New Paltz, N.Y.: Documentext, 1982).

Psychedelic art: okay, let’s assume for a bit that we know what art is—so what is psychedelic? That once ubiquitous word is supposed to mean mind-expanding. I know how you blow up a balloon and how you fill a tire but how do you expand a mind?

Psychedelic Art, by Robert E.L. Masters and Jean Houston (New York: Grove Press. 1968), declares: “Psychedelic experience might be described briefly as the experiencing of states of awareness or consciousness profoundly different from the usual waking consciousness, from dreams and from familiar intoxication states. . . . Consciousness expands to take in the contents of deep, ordinarily inaccessible regions of the psyche.”

The psychedelic argument usually goes something like this: we use only a small portion of our minds in our daily lives, much of our potential awareness and sensory input is blocked by mental screening systems which evolved in such a way as to limit our ordinary awareness of information necessary to our survival When a tiger is about to spring one does not ordinarily reflect upon the cosmic significance of stripes. Or as Masters (the sexpert) and Houston put it, writing about psychedelics:

A vast range of phenomena normally excluded enter into the extended consciousness. The mind no longer is subject to the highly selective censorship or screening usually imposed upon it by the ordinarily dominant mechanisms of the newest (cortical) areas of the brain. Mechanisms much older in evolutionary terms become dominant . . . These may not serve the usual interests of survival and practical functioning in the day-to-day world, but they can be immensely seminal for the creative person.

The ultimate implication of the psychedelic argument is that mankind has reached a point where a leap in the evolution of consciousness is possible, where the preprogrammed screening of sensory input is no longer necessary for survival, where the mind can be safely and productively reprogrammed. It’s interesting that Masters characterizes the mind’s process of info selection as censorship, as if after millions of years of mental childhood acid had induced mental puberty.

Masters and Houston suggest that drugs will replace art in the evolution of consciousness, or that art will become an aid to the transformations worked by psychochemicals: “The main determinants of the future development of consciousness are more likely to be chemically initiated experience, direct and finely planned regulation of brain function . . . and the impact of an electronic environment inclusive of mixed media art forms and entertainment.”

Mixed media and active art forms, active environments, were declared the replacement for “static” art forms, just as Marshall McLuhan’s “all at onceness” was declared as the successor to linear forms and processes in the Global Village.

Michael Hollingshead, a veteran of the Millbrook acid days, says, “I have several definitions of psychedelic art. The first is unsalable. Then there is art conceived or execute while stoned. Then there is art that you can look at on acid.”

Hollingshead’s first definition is interesting. Especially since it was once considered that the addition of the word psychedelic to anything made it eminently salable. But it is true that very few artists whose work has been termed psychedelic (except poster makers like Peter Max) have been able to sell much of it, even give it away. As for art conceived or executed while stoned—well, such things aren’t really bragged about or revealed, but I think it’s safe to say that there are even more nonpsychedelic artists working stoned than psychedelic artists, past and present. As for work that you can look at on acid. Well, what art can’t you look at on acid? Thanks, Michael, I think we got very close there, but no cigar.

Speaking of cigars, Ivan Karp, then of the Castelli Gallery, was quoted by Masters and Houston, speaking of psychedelic art: “It doesn’t exist,” a fairly accurate and semicosmic assessment. Ultimately psychedelic art would be in the dilated eye of the beholder. There was a feeling afoot that anything could be art and anyone could make it, and if that were true who wanted to be an artist?

John Perreault, writing in The Village Voice during the days of psychedelic art: “All art can be viewed as ’psychedelic’ if the term is divorced from its drug context and used in the wider sense of mind expanding.”

But if it didn’t need acid to be effective then it probably wasn’t really psychedelic art; it was probably art. Just plain art could be trippy to the acid head too, but it looked all right even to nonheads. Psychedelic Art might as well have been called Acid Art, that’s where it was at. Art made by acid heads for acidheads. Art requiring a chemical catalyst to achieve its reaction.

Of course, you didn’t have to be on acid at the time to dig a piece of psychedelic art. Sometimes the art would work on acid you’d dropped long before. Hearing Am the Walrus" gave me flashbacks for years. Acid had an enduring quality; even after it had worn off it hadn’t worn off. A psychedelic sensibility remained. Was it permanent? Was it damage? Was it permanent brain damage or an evolutionary leap? We could only wait and see or tune in again next leap. But there were plenty of expansive experts out there telling us that things would never be the same again.

When Jimi Hendrix sang, “You’ll never hear surf music again,” I believed it.

The first big psychedelic art show was put on at the Riverside Museum, New York, in 1966 by USCO (the Us Company), a commune of psychedelic artists. It consisted of objects, light works and environments—a true multimedia presentation which set the style and tone for the explosion of psychedelic art over the next few years: giant eyeball sculpture with lights inside, amplified human heartbeats, mandalas, a tie-dye room.

In Psychedelic Art Stanley Krippner recounted a visit to the USCO commune during which he admired a particular painting and asked “an attractive young weaver which member of the group had conceived the . . . painting.” Her reply: “We are all one.” Of course Psychedelic art was to be the end of ego trips such as signatures.

“I could swear I hear someone thinking in the other room. . . . ”
(Bill Griffith, Zippy the Pinhead, 1977).

Don Snyder, who projected wild painted slides onto nude women, who developed the “organic slide,” believed that psychedelics enabled one to get in touch with the “collective mind,” and he reported in Psychedelic Art that he had “intense feelings, under LSD, of entering into another person’s thoughts and becoming that person.”

“Psychochemistry, along with a new neurotechnology, may largely displace art in its ages-old role as a primary shaper of the development of consciousness; but there also will be an enormous enrichment of art in its means of expression as well as in its content.” (Masters and Houston, Psychedelic Art).

In September, 1966, long before many Americans had turned on, tuned in, or blown their minds, Life magazine had declared that psychedelic art might provide a drugless trip—“inducing the hallucinatory effects and intensified perceptions that LSD, marijuana and other psychedelic (or mind expanding) drugs produce—but without requiring the spectator to take drugs.” “We try to vaporize the mind . . . by bombing the senses,” Life quoted a psychedelic artist.

Psychedelic art was not for drugless trips. It was for and by drug trips. If you weren’t on drugs it didn’t look too great; if you were, wow.

It’s true that there were works, such as multimedia light and sound happenings, and some specific devices—such as Richard Aldcroft’s antibinocular goggles—which were supposed to head you toward inner space without chemicals. But why bother, when the chemicals and the art would really get you in there/out there?

A lot of psychedelic artists claimed that just one trip had changed the direction of their work permanently. But why did they take just one trip, if the first one was so great? Were they afraid of chromosome damage, bummers. Blue Meanies?

Oh wow, it’s coming on; I’m getting visuals.

Remember visuals? Visuals were hallucinations that were superimposed on ordinary sights: patterns where there were no patterns before, pulsing lights, things that looked like Op art grids on the ceiling. As a matter of fact, I would consider Op to be a branch of Psychedelic, but that’s another story. To the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers and almost everyone else, those lights in our eyes were called visuals. To the scientists of psychedelia they were called eidetic images. Usually these images were abstract, sometimes they weren’t. Sometimes they were part abstract, part image; a face turning to paisley, a wall turning into a pulsating Op checkerboard.

To the tripper colors were enchantingly enhanced—red was redder than ever, and green greener. Unnatural colors were a natural for the psychedelic experience, especially for a generation of TV babies and neon children. Day-Glo met black light, glowing like bugs in the night, like fish at a thousand fathoms.

Then there were the lights falling on dilated pupils. I remember a machine at the Ambassador Theater in Washington, D.C., an old psychedelicized cavern like the Fillmore, a machine with binocular eyepieces and a button. Put your eyes to the lenses and push the button and—zap—a bright flash behind a stencil imprinted an arabesque LOVE on your retina for a few minutes, like a flashbulb blob, but with a message.

You don’t have to be on acid to pick up eidetic images. All you have to do is close your eyes and poke them with your fingers to behold eidetic images aplenty. It was said that this cheap light show was one of the secret techniques of the Maharaj Ji cult.

Life magazine, September, 1966: “For Brooklyn chemistry professor Dr. Gerald Oster, a single trip on LSD was all it took to launch him on an art career. ‘It made a fabulous impression,’ he recalls. What struck him particularly was the ‘stunning magnificence of phosphenes,’ those dancing dots, spirals, radial lines and other luminous images that one can see when the eyes are closed or the fingers are pressed against the lids.”

As Zippy the Pinhead said: “Are we laid-back yet?”.

I used to eat in the Maharaj Ji restaurant across the street from the New York Public Library. The vegetarian food was good but the service was terrible—the waiters and waitresses were always standing around with their eyes closed—tight.

“Some people work very hard, but still they never get it right/Well I’m beginning to see the light.” (Lou Reed, the Velvet Underground, “Beginning to See the Light”).

Psychedelic art’s greatest hit was the light show. It was a standard feature of rock concerts for years. Pulsing protoplasmic blobs with slides of American Indians superimposed, a mandala on the face of LBJ—remember? Anyway, light shows, total environments, and happenings were the ultimate in psychedelic art. Paintings weren’t enough. The more stoned the audience the more receptive and passive they were, and therefore the more active the art the more effective it was. Remember the film Flicker, 1966, by Tony Conrad? It wasn’t exactly psychedelic: maybe it was psychotodelic—it was rumored that the night it opened two people in the audience had heart attacks, and that later numerous viewers had epileptic seizures when the flicker reached a certain frequency.

The first rock light show was not at the Fillmore; it was the Exploding Plastic Inevitable, presented by Andy Warhol and featuring the Velvet Underground. Lou Reed: “Danny Williams would sit for hours up at the Factory using himself as a test-subject for seven strobe lights we were using when we were doing the Exploding Plastic Inevitable.You can imagine! That’s why John and I used to wear sunglasses when we played. We didn’t want to see it. We knew. Danny was so far gone he killed himself.” (Quoted in Victor Bockris and Gerard Malanga, Uptight: the Velvet Underground Story, New York: Omnibus, 1983).

The light show really arrived at around the same time as the Carousel slide projector. Michael Hollingshead recalls: "It was discovered that you could spit on a glass slide and it would project as this abstract form, and as the light from the projector heated the slide the form would change shape.

The light show, along with live music and audience participation in the form of dancing or freaking out or whatever, was probably psychedelic art at its peak—the total environment.

Happenings had been happening for some time. As created by Allan Kaprow, Claes Oldenburg, and others, happenings were not necessarily psychedelic, but they weren’t far off in their multimedia, audience-involvement feel. They contributed to the feeling that anything was possible (or likely), they extended art beyond its accepted parameters. The audience got into the act, into the art. Psychedelic light artists like Jackie Cassen and Rudi Stern and the USCO group
started out exhibiting their multi-media environments in art spaces like the Riverside Museum and the Cinémathèque and wound up creating effects for discotheques like the World and the Cheetah. Pop art was supposedly breaking down the barriers between fine art and commercial art, and putting the latest total environment art into discos seemed like the logical (though naturally nonlinear) step in art going public.

Life magazine reported: “The USCO artists call their congenial wrap-around environment a ‘be-in’ because the spectator is supposed to exist in the show rather than just look at it.”

Psychedelic objects, meanwhile, didn’t go to the galleries; they went into mass production and into the head shops. The idea of an original meant nothing. Psychedelic art’s value was measured only by its effect. It was immediate and disposable. And it was usually disposed of.

When people talked psychedelic art, or psychedelic anything, they always talked about levels. Another hundred micrograms and maybe you’ll get down to the level of cellular consciousness. Tired of listening to your blood flow? Try listening to your cells metabolize. The next level. Next!

On one level psychedelic art requires a more passive audience than just plain art. By breaking down mental screens, by letting in more sensory data or whatever it is so-called psychedelic drugs do, they tend to overwhelm the tripper from the outside—to make the world, and therefore art objects in it, bigger than life—the old “a world in a grain of sand” trip of William Blake.

Psychedelic art arrived as Minimal art was peaking. Blake’s old Gothic vs. Egyptian struggle, or what? LSD provided a new fascination with detail, even heretofore uninteresting detail—oh, wow, look at this wood grain. Therefore one of the few stylistic characteristics of psychedelic art was that its content was usually maximal rather than minimal. Generally any art crammed with detail, either abstract or symbolic, was considered psychedelic, and it was wondered how Bosch could have created his works without acid.

It is conceivable that Bosch was something of a psychedelic artist. In Soma: Divine Mushroom of Immortality (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1976) R. Gordon Wasson reproduces a detail of Bosch’s triptych The Hay-wain, ca.1485–1505, a cloud scattering flies, a reddish mushroom cloud rather resembling the fly agaric mushroom.

Stylistically there are many artists whose work looks more or less psychedelic: Gustav Klimt, Fritz Hundertwasser, Paul Klee, Pavel Tchelitchew. Paintings by these artists might be attractive to trippers or they might resemble in some ways paintings made by takers of psychedelic drugs, but that doesn’t mean that these artists have anything to do with psychedelia except in the strictest—mind-expanding—sense of the word.

What’s the difference between Surrealism and Psychedelicism, or in the adjectival forms, “wow, surreal” and “wow, psychedelic”? Is Yves Tanguy psychedelic? Joan Miró, René Magritte, Salvador Dali? I guess that depends on whether or not you’re on acid. I think we can assume that the Surrealists were not acidheads—maybe some of them were other kinds of dope fiends,but who knows, who cares?

Both psychedelic art and Surrealism were declared to be attempts to make art through gaining access to states of consciousness other than the normal, logical waking state, Surrealists believed in Freud’s unconscious or subconscious mind and used various means to get at it, from dreams and automatic handwriting to drugs. Antonin Artaud, after his split with Surrealism, took peyote with the Indians in Mexico. But maybe Artaud was more of a pre/postpsychedelic than a Surrealist. He talked about spirit. To a doctrinaire Surrealist, spirit was beside the point. Surrealism did not hold the oracle in reverence. Surrealism had no gurus besides Freud and Marx and André Breton. Psychedelia would find a guru around every corner, under every rock.

Joan Miró, in Minotaure, 1933: “It is difficult for me to talk about my painting, for it is always born in a state of hallucination provoked by some shock, objective or subjective, for which I am entirely irresponsible.” (Quoted in Surrealists on Art, ed. Lucy Lippard, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1970).

Marcel Duchamp, 1957: “If we give the attributes of a medium to the artist, we must then deny him the state of consciousness on the esthetic plane about what he is doing or why he is doing it. All his decisions in the artistic execution of the work rest with pure intuition and cannot be translated into a self-analysis, spoken or written, or even thought out. T.S. Eliot, in his essay on ‘Tradition and Individual Talent,’ writes: ‘The more perfect the artist, the more completely separate in him will be the man who suffers and the mind which creates; the more perfectly will the mind digest and translate the passions which are its material.’” (From “The Creative Act,” 1957, reprinted in Surrealists on Art).

Both Surrealism and psychedelia might be seen as periods of adjustment for the artist and for society—adjustment within the individual, redivision of the labor of the artist between the I and the me. Or among the I, the me, and the it, Art begins with the me—the artist receiving inspiration from the it, whether it be the id below, the fire from above, or an adjacent butt. During the reception of inspiration the will, the ego, is off duty. Later it takes over and does the job. Both Surrealism and psychedelicism espoused the suspension of the will, the ego—but in Surrealism this suspension was seen as a temporary thing, accomplished methodically. Psychedelia proclaimed artistry as mediumship, the artist becoming little more than an intermediary, and the suspension was held in reverence, even if it was drug-induced.

For Surrealism the material gleaned from the unconscious mind was important, it was new, but it wasn’t sacred or oracular. It was hitherto unavailable data, as good as any other data.

For the psychedelics this other mind, this altered state, was superior to reality. It was semiholy. We outnumbered the ego.

Egos that sat around waiting till you got back from your trip—egos more rested than the rest of you.

There was no single psychedelic style, but there were several primary motifs. There was a surge of neo-Gothicism (in the Blakean sense), taking up organic forms over the abstract. Some was neo-Nouveau. Art Nouveau happened at the peak of the industrial revolution, capitalizing on a popular disgust with technology.The same thing created psychedelic organic form. Everyone was eating organic food, wearing organic clothes,and generally digging the “organic” form, reacting against technology out of control. Wes Wilson’s posters for San Francisco’s Fillmore were perhaps the best achievements in Nouveau Nouveau style. His designs and his calligraphic lettering were puzzles for the eye, usually a dilated eye, to decipher, but his works are still attractive, even to the nonexpanded.

Aubrey Beardsley is another primary source for psychedelic style. He had many emulators in the ’60s, many of them giving his style a cubist twist, if the cube had anything to do with paisley.

We know that Beardsley wasn’t on acid, but might not Beardsley, chronically ill, have been an opium or laudanum user? The same might be said of quite a few artists whose work is considered precursive to psychedelic art. The odd thing is that opiates work in a way that is rather the opposite of the way so-called psychedelic drugs work, restricting sensory input rather than expanding it. What does it all mean? I don’t know, but it is interesting that many of the godheads of psychedelic music, who expanded the minds of legions of acidheads, were later discovered to have been stoned junkies. Perhaps the opiated performer and lysergicized audience were a perfect equation. The acid-eating audience was hyperexternalized, turned outwards. The heroin-absorbed performer was oblivious to an outside world, tuned to an inner flow. The performer was in no condition to observe: the audience was in no condition to express. The ego-shedding us of the audience surrendered to the perfectly disinterested I of the performer.

“‘Wecan’t afford to have this kind of [chemical] dumping helter-skelter all over Long Island: said State Sen. Ralph J. Marino, a Republican from Lattington.” (New York Times, n.d).

“The risk in the power to create hallucinations is that they could be exploited by established authority for its own purposes, the way the Church, for instance, uses images to enslave its members. But the power to create hallucinations should not be checked because it is sometimes criminally abused. However, it is true that in the last century religious hallucinations had to be killed by positivism: history had reached the point where it was necessary to retest all our beliefs. But nowadays science knows very well how to test everything, it is once again permissable to create hallucinations, science can always prevent them from becoming tyrannical—except the scientific hallucination.” (Matta, “Hellucinations,” from Max Ernst, Beyond Painting, New York: Wittenborn, 1948).

Are you experienced? Have you ever been experienced? Well I have. But you don’t have to be on drugs to have hallucinations. I know plenty of straight, drug-free people who talk to their plants.

I had a really good hallucination once and as a result the city of New York was completely blacked out and powerless for many hours. Psychedelia can be very dangerous. A mind is a terrible thing to expand. Fortunately it is also a nearly impossible thing to expand without a lot of work. You can’t eat intelligence. But you can eat confusion that may seem like it. Reminds me of an old joke. “Hey John, have a smart pill?” “What do you mean, Jim, a smart pill?”“You eat these and you get smart.” John eats one. “Say, Jim, these taste like rabbit shit.” “Well, John, now you gettin’ smart.”

“White collared conservative flashing down the street/Pointing their plastic finger at me./They’re hoping soon my kind will drop and die,/But I’m gonna wave my freak flag high, high.” (Jimi Hendrix, “If 6 Was 9”).

“The trend . . . is increasingly in the direction of massive enforcement of sweeping punitive laws. If there is no reversal, and as pressures intensify, psychedelic art will either perish or, more likely, move entirely underground.” (Masters and Houston, Psychedelic Art).

Has psychedelic art gone underground, six feet, into hidden recesses, is it still around? Most of the work that was considered psychedelic during the psychedelic days doesn’t hold up today I would imagine that even on acid it wouldn’t be now what it was then.

But there are exceptions. Brion Gysin’s work was psychedelic (in the mind-expanding sense) before anyone had ever heard the word. It was of and about magic and it worked and it still works its beautiful spell. Gysin was also the first “psychedelic” artist to approach light scientifically, constructing a Dreamachine that is said to evoke images through a specific stroboscopic frequency.

Mati Klarwein’s name has been associated with psychedelic art from its beginning—and he has probably suffered more than any other artist from the association. Klarwein’s paintings have certain qualities that are undeniably related to psychedelic art modes, his work is often mystical, he has painted environments, he has used the mandala form—but Klarwein has transcended an aggressively transcendental movement. Where other so-called psychedelic artists relied on a drugged audience for effect. Klarwein’s work, to any eye, conveys expanded perceptions. He might have been the king of the Photorealists—a small kingdom, to be sure, but more accepted by the art world than that of psychedelia—were it not for the psychedelic association, and also, perhaps, his success as a commercial artist. As a commercial artist he became the greatest of the album cover painters, inducing millions of “Oh wow”s with his jacket designs for Miles Davis. Santana, and recently Jon Hassell. Mati has survived being considered psychedelic very well: it hasn’t rubbed off on his style and his style hasn’t rubbed off. (He has a new book out—Inscapes: Real Estate Paintings, New York: Crown Publishers, 1983)

Looking back, some of the stuff characterized as psychedelic when that was happening does look something like art or a lot like it, even to hallucination-proof eyeballs. Even some of the more out-there stuff evokes a certain nostalgia—I mean if it weren’t for Don Snyder’s organic slides projected onto nude girls there might never have been Goldie Hawn go-going in body paint and bikini on “Laugh In.”

If it weren’t for psychedelic there wouldn’t have been any “Laugh-In” at all.

I miss light shows. Rock ’n’ roll hasn’t been the same without that total environment, and since the Mudd Club closed. New York has been without significant black-light art.

Some of the ’60s painters hold up today, even to the nonexpansive consciousness. I like Lex de Bruijn’s psycho-extravagant abstractions. They look like art and they are interesting, even when they have “mandala” in the title—he, at least, had the inspiration to do asymmetrical, runny mandalas, lopsided and catchy.

Ernst Fuchs’ works are very painterly, and while they are often cosmic, transcendental, Eastern mystical in their iconography, they are not unsubtle and sometimes they are pretty.

But that was then and this is now. Now acid comes on Disney figures, the easier to push it to school children. Now ads on TV are psychedelic. Hell, reality is now psychedelic. I really don’t think acid is psychedelic anymore. I get off on linear.

So where is psychedelic art today? Hidden away from that sinister knock on the door, meeting in secret cells like a far-out Solidarity? Is it gone altogether? Or did it ever exist? Did it just mean people on acid in the ’60s making art or trying to?

Not too long ago the Fun Gallery presented a show by Kenny Scharf with the usual Wilma Flintstone paintings in the usual aggressive colors, but there was also a big surprise in the show, a black-light room. It was a trip all right, a trip back into time, into another frame of mind and reference—welcome to the Blacklight Zone. But it was different this time around. In this black-light room there were hundreds of Day-Glo-festooned kitsch objects, there was paint everywhere, and, at the opening, there were people everywhere, too. Among them I felt rather senior because I had the impression that most of them hadn’t been there the first time around. Some of them might have thought that this was what it was like back there in 1967. It wasn’t. This was funny. This was fun. That was not funny. That was heavy. There was some fun involved back then, but it was heavy fun.

So what changed? People still take acid. Not me. I had enough. I really lost interest at the Woodstock festival when I was out of my mind on Sunshine and thought that the Wavy Gravy–led breathing exercises were taking us all to the moon, and then when some macrobiotic vegetarians with leprous acne decided they wanted to share my blanket, well, lemme outa here even if I have to step on half a million hippies.

Before that I had had plenty of good trips. But I did just lose interest. My acid attention span just wasn’t what it was. Years passed.

In about 1972 I went to an apartment on the Upper East Side with friends. They showed me around and, oh wow, there it was. The famous psychedelic room painted by Allen Atwell, artist buddy of Timothy Leary. Richard Alpert, etc It was only five years since the Summer of Love, but it might as well have been five mil—this room was funny but it was no Lascaux caves, Jack, it was, like, demented. But it was funny. It didn’t give me a flashback, and “I Am the Walrus” still gives me flashbacks; it just made me think that I was glad I saw it five years later on cocktails.

I did take acid once again, a few years ago. It was from an Esalenoid acid shrink from California—supposed to be really pure. I was out in Montauk at a motel and dropped and—whooah—lemme outa here, It wasn’t cosmic anymore. As James Brown said, “It’s too funky to funk in here—gimme some air.” All I wanted to do was drink and drive, which I did; I drove to a bar in Bridgehampton and had a few dozen drinks and then drove back hours later. Nobody believed that my girlfriend and I were on acid. I could hardly believe it myself. Maybe my mind was already as expanded as it was ever going to get. But I do have some nice psychedelic art to show for it; my girlfriend did some great drawings of oncoming headlights on the Montauk Highway.

Psychedelic is still with us. People still like black-light posters, but I’m talking about psychedelic art. The real thing: mind-expanding. Nothing to do with acid, but maybe something to do with what happened back ’hen which did have something to do with acid.

To name but a few, Carroll Dunham’s paintings are psychedelic—intricate, organic, wildly colored—but psychedelic in the new way, not without humor, without deadly seriousness. They are related, oddly enough, to an art movement that was reported in Artforum in the Summer of Love issue (little did they know): Funk art. Funk art was acid indigestion. Funk art was fun. It articulate, dumb, political, antipolitical, beautiful, ugly, and more.

Carl Apfelschnitt’s paintings are mind-expanding or something like it, often they are in glowing colors obviating eyeball pressure, and they even express spiritual concerns—but these spirits are elegant and upwardly mobile and far from egoless.

Kiki Smith is tie-dyed but far from communal.

Tadanori Yokoo is psychedelic but also funky, funny and an I full.

Keith Haring is Day-Glo but completely divorced from Beardsley and Art Nouveau.

Richard Hambleton’s public shadow figures are hallucinogenic, but only for a second.

I think we’re making some progress here. We seem to have learned from the hallucinations, learned from seeing stars and unreal comets, learned from turning on, tuning in, and then asking, hey, where’s the fine tuning?

The reception is better now. We’ve got cable.

All these new painters, well, some of all these new painters are so colorful and wild and maximal and they don’t have any gurus or trip guides and they sign things and make them much more valuable. I feel so proud.

I saw God and He said—“Yo, my man!”.

I saw a burning bush but it had a red dot next to I feel so good now I may never come down.

I . . . Ay-yi-yi!

Glenn O’Brien is a writer who lives in New York, and a semiprofessional stand up comedian.