Montreal Museum of Fine Arts displays the 60’s revolution
60’s revolution – For some people—I should admit, myself included—they were the greatest of all times. The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts decided to pay tribute to the 1960s with a very comprehensive exhibition which, very appropriately, is titled “Revolution” after the homonym song by John Lennon. Indeed, those were revolutionary years not only in the political sense but also in the whole existential concept of life: from clothing to music, to sexual attitudes. It was also a response on the part of the youth of that period, to the previous decade, marked—in North America at least—by suburban development, consumerism, and conformity. The young didn’t want any of that, so they rebelled. The exhibition covers all of that in a very extensive and diverse way. Although many works by artists of that period are on display, I would say that that is not the main point of the show, and in those days that was not the point either. Instead, what you will find are the uniforms worn by The Beatles on the cover of their iconic record “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” some of the dresses that marked the fashion of the 1960s, and even a replica of one of the uniforms used by the Black Panthers revolutionary group.
The poster was a very important means of communication, and therefore, one can find many of them on display, from political ones in particular against the Vietnam War to others delivering a commercial message. This decade is also a period that introduced substantial changes in both, graphic and industrial design.
Another very significant element of this exhibition is its musical context. Music by the great bands of that time, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Pink Floyd, provides an emotional and nostalgic background to the exhibit: in fact, the music is an integral part of the show. Probably the section where the drums of The Who occupy centre stage while on the screen scenes from “Woodstock” are shown is one of the highlights of the whole event. After all these years one still find very moving the shot with Jimi Hendrix’s rendition of the U.S. national anthem in which the notes resemble the American bombing of Vietnamese villages.
Politically those were hot years: in Paris and other French cities, the government of President Charles de Gaulle almost fell after strong protests staged by students and workers. In Latin America, guerrilla warfare extended through many countries and legendary Che Guevara, killed in Bolivia in 1967 became an iconic figure for young people everywhere. Quebec was not exempt from the revolutionary atmosphere that extended throughout the world: the Quiet Revolution took place at that time too, but there were also the violent actions of the FLQ which would culminate unleashing the October Crisis in 1970.
The 1960s are also the years when a significant phenomenon that would have a profound social impact was already in its embryonic state: the computer age. The exhibit also includes the first—of course very rudimentary—Apple computer.
“Revolution” also presents a few movies that are very representative of that period; I especially recommend “2001: A Space Odyssey” by Stanley Kubrick (in English with French subtitles, June 28, 6 p.m.). “Blow-Up” by Michelangelo Antonioni (in English, July 12, 6 p.m.), “Barbarella” by Roger Vadim (in French, July 19, 6 p.m.), and “Easy Rider” by Dennis Hopper (English with French subtitles, August 2, 6 p.m.). All these shows are at the Maxwell Cummings Auditorium, 1379-A Sherbrooke St. West.
For more detailed information visit the MMFA website: www.mbam.qc.ca
Feature image: The first Apple computer