Psychedelic Art Movement, Style, & Characteristics

Psychedelic Art Movement, Style, & Characteristics

The psychedelic art movement that became synonymous with the 1960s captured the vitality and emotion of the people from that era. With its captivating psychedelic colors and patterns, the movement ruled the entire decade and introduced a new art aesthetic that defined the 1960s.

As there is an expected resurgence of psychedelic art, revisiting the celebrated art movement in the '60s will help us better understand and appreciate the beauty of psychedelic art that we may encounter.


What is the Psychedelic Art Movement?

The psychedelic art movement is an art movement that became highly popular in the 1960s. It happened when psychedelic drugs found their way out of the laboratory and people started to discover their profound effects in altering consciousness.

The psychedelic art movement involved artists that typically make use of their psychedelic experiences to create visual art that features an extreme depth of detail and stylization.

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When the music industry embraced the psychedelic art movement, its popularity surged to the point that it also dominated the fashion industry and created a subculture that's diametrically opposite to the mainstream cultural norms.

Contrary to the common notion, psychedelic art is not only fueled by the experiences produced by psychedelic drugs alone because all artistic efforts that show the inner workings of the psyche can be also considered psychedelic art.

However, it is the psychedelic drug that ultimately fueled the movement and when the US government banned these types of drugs in the 1970s, the psychedelic art movement then disappeared from the limelight.

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Origin of Psychedelic Art

The origin of psychedelic art can be credited to Albert Hofmann, a Swiss chemist who accidentally discovered LSD which is an extremely potent hallucinogen. He was also the first person who ingested the psychedelic drug, and it was then that he discovered its profound effect.

From the discovery of LSD in the late 1930s up to the 1960s, things were very promising for the psychedelic artists who embraced the new form of art.

As technology advanced in the '60s, artists were then able to incorporate different techniques inspired by the industrial innovations that brought psychedelic art to a whole new level.

Aside from paintings, artists also illustrated their psychedelic experiences in illustrations and drawings using metallic foils, and fluorescent inks, among others. Psychedelic art has been around for a while even before the inception of psychedelic music.

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However, it is psychedelic music that made psychedelic art even more popular, especially in the '60s as it was widely used in most of their promotions.

When we think of psychedelic art, we also automatically think of psychedelic music, as these two seem to be intertwined.

Even today, psychedelic arts are still favored especially by rock musicians who need to feature compelling art for their album covers.

What are the Characteristics of Psychedelic Art?

Psychedelic art is the expression of one's altered state of consciousness in a visual art form to convey the beauty and emotional power of such an experience.

The altered state of consciousness brings a certain psychedelic experience through hallucinations, and this is when the artist can create a tangible record of that experience through visual art or displays.

Psychedelic art is characterized by its kaleidoscopic, surrealistic, bright, contrasting, and warping features with extreme depth and detail.

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Looking at psychedelic arts can be very overwhelming that you will often feel consumed by its depth. It can look out of this world as it should since the artist who created the art is typically under a trance after ingesting psychedelic drugs such as LSD, psilocybin, or DMT.

However, it is important to note that tapping into the psychedelic realm does not always require taking any of these substances for it can also be done through meditation and other forms of awakening.

History of Psychedelic Art

The popularity of psychedelic art reached its peak in the '60s when it became synonymous with psychedelic music. However, its history can be dated as far back as the late 1800s since it came from other celebrated art movements including Art Nouveau and Surrealism.

Aside from the fact that these particular art movements were highly influential during that time, the principles of these movements also correspond to that of psychedelic art at some level.

These influences are evident in the album covers and posters that were highly popular in the '60s which featured bright colors, warping patterns, kaleidoscopic elements, and swirly typography.

While the creators of Art Nouveau aimed to express the vibrancy of life through art, the artists of psychedelic art, on the other hand, wanted to describe their otherworldly experiences by applying vivid colors in their arts.

Another art movement that strongly influenced psychedelic art is Surrealism which is a movement that started just after the first World War.

Surrealism is all about creating art through the expressions of the subconscious mind which is also in line with the concept of the psychedelic art movement.

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List of Popular Psychedelic Artists

Alex Grey

Alex Grey was born in 1953 in Columbus, Ohio and he is known for creating psychedelic paintings that were inspired by his hallucinogenic journeys.

He is one of the leading psychedelic artists today whose artworks have been featured in multiple music albums. Some of Grey's psychedelic artworks can be viewed at The Chapel of Sacred Mirrors (CoSM), a trans-denominational church located in Wappinger, New York.

Peter Max

Peter Max is a German American psychedelic artist known for using vivid colors that include all of the visible spectra.

The artist's success in the '60s was astounding for he sold millions of merchandise that featured his most popular psychedelic artwork, "Love."

Due to the popularity of his art, Max became instantly famous that he was invited to appear on television and was even featured on the cover of Life magazine. In the late '60s, General Electric released its psychedelic clocks on the market designed by Peter Max.

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Martin Sharp

Martin Sharp was an Australian psychedelic artist known for his painting, "Exploding Jimi Hendrix." Sharp created the painting after he met Jimi Hendrix in person while he was living in London.

It features a burst of bright red, yellow, green, blue, and purple that depicts Hendrix on a live stage.

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