“Beat Culture And The New America: 1950–1965”

Walker Art Center

More about artifacts than art, “Beat Culture and the New America,” curated by Lisa Phillips, includes a plethora of first editions, journals, manuscripts, ’zines, chapbooks, posters, letters, and jazz-album jackets, all entombed in vitrines. There are also TV clips and films, recorded poetry, and documentations of happenings, as well as a reading gallery stocked with shiny editions of Beat lit. An elaborate, wall-sized timeline charts significant events in the Beat world against significant events in the world at large, while newsprint flyers give the lowdown on the New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco scenes, complete with tangled East/West Coast “sociograms”—or family trees—of Beat artists.

In short, this exhibition thoroughly maps “Beat culture,” but seems flummoxed in its attempt to pin down such a far-flung, nebulous movement. Which is understandable: showcasing the Beats in a

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