Berkeley Art Center in the1960s
The Berkeley Art Center began operation in the late sixties, a time characterized by major political, social, and cultural change. The Free Speech movement had reached its peak in the mid-sixties and its gains paved the way for major anti-Vietnam war protests. Along with the charged political climate, many movements such as, Human Be-In occurred at San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. Carl Worth, the first Director of the Berkeley Art Center, attended this event the day before he had his interview for the position as Director. He surprised himself when he began to share the experience he had at the Be-In during the interview: "Somehow, spontaneously, I began to share my experience at the Be-In. I said that I wanted to try to create an exhibition program that had some of the galvanizing, dynamic quality of the parachuting event that brought people together. I said that I felt art was a way of doing that and I thought Berkeley was the right place to create that kind of ambiance." Therefore, the Berkeley Art Center was born from the inspiration of the 1960s. As were several other art institutions in the Bay Area: The Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, Oakland Museum of California, The Asian Art Museum, etc.
The Berkeley Art Center exhibited work by over 50 artists.
Below are selected exhibitions from the 1960s at the Berkeley Art Center.
The Six Figure Painters:
Boyd Allen, Jerrold Ballaine, Robert Bechtle, Gerald Gooch,
Erle Loran, and Richard McClean
May - June 1967
At this time the world had just experienced Andy Warhol's Marylin Monroe print. Abstract Expressionism was becoming less and less the main focus. Movements such as Pop Art and Bay Area Figure Painting challenged abstract Expression. The first exhibition, The Six Figure Painters: Boyd Allen, Jerrold Ballaine, Robert Bechtle, Gerald Gooch, Erle Loran, and Richard McClean ran from May 7th - June 10th 1967 was influenced by the Bay Area Figure Painting Movement and was a reflection of what was happening in SF Bay Area and the world.
November - December 1967
The Berkeley Art Center finished its first year with Chiura Obata: Sumi Painting exhibition. This would be the first of many exhibitions influenced by Japanese art and culture to take place at the Berkeley Art Center. Chiura Obata had this show at the age of 81. He was a faculty member in the Art Department at the University of California, Berkeley from 1932 - 1954.
Inside the Moon
September - October 1969
Inside the Moon was an interactive installation"where large areas of scrim were twisted up into the beams so that the upper reaches of the ceiling became a three dimensional projection screen. Quadraphonic sound filled the room and a large harp came down in the middle of the room so viewers could pluck on the strings and sounds would emanate from around the room. And there were large backlit, liquid-filled tubes which would slowly turn so that water would undulate inside them. The whole floor was covered with about ten inches of a thick foam pad so that viewers could lie down and look up at these things. You were invited to relax and become a part of the space."* The exhibition represented the psychedelic and experimental influences at that time.
*excerpt from 2007 interview with Carl Worth.
Pat McFarlin and Joe Slusky
July - August 1969
Major breakthroughs in sculpture took place throughout the 60s and 70s in the Bay Area. For the first couple decades Berkeley Art Center's exhibitions were centered on painting and/or sculpture. Joe Slusky exhibited his work during the 1960s and remains actively involved at the Berkeley Art Center. His current work was exhibited during BAC's Artists Annual Exhibition, December 2016 - January 2017.