1967 - AN EXHIBITION OF POP ARTThe Bluecoat 3/6/17
For one day only, The Bluecoat hosts an exhibition of artworks from collector Trevor Hughes’ private collection. The exhibition runs alongside Hughes’ regular Bluecoat Record Fair event – a regular fixture and one of the oldest in the UK – benefitting from the footfall of its existing customers. All the exhibits in this collection were released in 1967, fitting in perfectly with the Summer Of Love fever that has gripped the city this year.
The first impression you get as you enter the room is of walking into a kaleidoscope, a wild burst of colour and pattern. The walls and tables are stacked with comics, album covers, movie posters, bubble-gum cards and assorted memorabilia. I take a walk around with Hughes, who clearly delights in pointing out particularly iconic pieces and who exhibits an in-depth knowledge of his collection. We are constantly interrupted by wide-eyed enthusiasts who strike up the kind of instant rapport that a shared obsession brings. Hughes, wearing a Prisoner blazer (the TV series being a particular favourite of his), is always happy to chat and elaborate.
We’re looking at a row of Marvel and DC comics which stand above a row of album covers, and Hughes gives a bit of context as to why this part of the collection is so prominent. “Vinyl was made to be kept, comics to be thrown away, hence the scarcity and value of many comics. DC heroes were complete fantasy figures, whereas you could relate more to Marvel heroes; they shared some of our problems: relationship problems, health problems.” A Prisoner collection is adorned with a huge white Rover – “I’ll activate it if anyone touches the exhibits,” laughs Hughes; The Monkees bubble-gum cards are displayed from the reverse side, a jigsaw of rectangles showing the smiling band members; the poster which inspired the lyrics of For The Benefit Of Mr Kite sits next to a boggle-eyed Marty Feldman eyeing Julie Edge in a French romp; people flick through copies of Freak Out, Disraeli Gears, James Last Goes Pop.
There is also a cornucopia of counter-culture iconography on show, again reflecting the mood of the era: the legalise cannabis letter from The Times, posters advertising Hell’s Angels parties, love-ins and happenings, a darkly blurred album cover entitled LSD (“anti-LSD album, sound of people having bad trips, screaming,” smiles Hughes) sitting next to an album featuring Timothy Leary et al. (“pro-acid, Tune-In, Turn-On and all that,” he says, “nice contrast”), Robert Crumb’s Keep On Truckin’ and Big Brother artwork, a superb example of psych-art illustrates a Golden Gate Park ‘gathering of the tribes for a human be-in’… and there’s so much more my mind can’t focus on.
“I might show this again in December,” muses Hughes, “but I’m definitely going to do ‘68 next year and a 50-year retrospective each year after that”. Keep your eyes peeled, it’s worth the trip.