Art

Art and Culture Center Exhibit Traces LSD From Inception to Doors of Perception

"Discovered by Albert Hofmann in 1938, mass manufactured for use in psychiatry by the pharmaceutical manufacturer Sandoz from 1947 and utilized by the CIA in the 1950s, Lysergic Acid Diethylamide, or LSD-25, was banned in 1967 after its widespread adoption by the counter culture" is the innocuous and somewhat to-the-point quote used by London-based curator and gallerist Rob Tufnell in the news releases for his "Project LSD," which explores the possibilities, both practical and psychological, of the maligned drug. In one fell swoop in this Art and Culture Center of Hollywood exhibit, Tufnell creates a Borgesian "Aleph" and through the commission of art on blotter paper develops a maelstrom of disparate ideologies for consumerism. (In Jorge Luis Borges' short story of the same name, "The Aleph" is a point in space that contains all other points.)

Let's start with the nature of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD-25) and its happy journey from psychiatric pharmaceutical to interrogative agent and finally as doorman for the counterculture of the 1960s. LSD is a powerful tool when working within the mysterious channels of the mind, and as such, it might've come on too hard with handlers unprepared for its effects. Did it help psychiatrists? Yes, it did in some ways. Did it help the CIA with its MKUltra program fact-finding mission for miracle mind control? Oh boy, is that an embarrassment for the agency to discuss! Did the hippies use it to kick down Aldous Huxley's doors of perception and begin a culture of slow drawls and esoteric and philosophic drivel spouted by many a pimply faced youth? You bet.

There is an artistry at play here that's undeniable.

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But all facets of LSD's development are legitimate; no opinion on any of the these scenarios can trump another. Tufnell's appropriation of the ideological value of the drug in its ready-to-sell format is what matters at this junction and works to mirror the art world and how it has become a vicious cycle of necessities unto itself. The same way LSD's wheels have spun from inception/synthesis almost 70 years ago to current usage, Tufnell's commissioned pieces show us a fabricated world, full of its own rituals and apocryphal mythos that is ready to "turn on, tune in, drop out," as Timothy Leary via Marshall McLuhan would advise.

This project, which is ongoing, features editions of works on blotter paper ("without the active ingredient of Lysergic Acid Diethylamide," the center is quick to point out) in runs of 100 offset lithographic prints from 16 commissioned artists. The works, though coming from the different backgrounds of the artists, share the commonality of repetition as a signature of product not unlike blotter sheets of old that might've carried a "maker's" stamp — think of Vice Magazine's 2012 article on the art of heroin bags or artist Jacquelyn's "dime bags" of dissected canvas during Art Basel a few years back. Like drug-dealer signifiers, these artists also borrow from the mainstream and the popular with nods toward minimalism, pop art, surrealism, and optic art.

There is an artistry at play here that's undeniable, and from a design perspective, there's something beautiful in the visual metronome of the pieces as they are broken slightly by the perforation lines of the medium. The obvious joke would be to liken this new facet in LSD's evolution to the way hippies traded in the free-loving grooviness for Beemers and venture capitalism, but that's not the point. The point is that Borgesian moment in which everything exists at once, the crippling realization that all life experience can be boiled down to a single moment of awareness thanks to a tiny tab of soaked blotter. Well, maybe not. But some type of door opens with each print sold, and that's the "dependency" the art world has created for itself. Maybe Tufnell can have himself a private chuckle the next time he's referred to as a "dealer."

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Abel Folgar