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West of Center: Art and the Counterculture Experiment in America, 1965-1977

Overall I thought this collection of essays was pretty good and I’d recommend it to anyone curious about: making art outside the largest urban centers, or the lesser known points in West Coast art history, or San Francisco history, or DIY building and craft, or U.S. 1960’s counterculture history.
Looking at art thought of as part of the counterculture seems worthwhile partly because:
When contemporary critics confront dialogic projects, they often simply apply a formal methodology that cannot value, or even recognize, the communicative interactions that these artists find so important. The results are not surprising: dialogical works are criticized for being unaesthetic or are attacked for needlessly suppressing visual gratification. (Grant Kester quoted in the introduction)
The book/exhibition, a response to this critique of critics, takes in a lot of projects not usually examined like art: community gardens, design workshops, and concert posters.
Like a lot of multi-author collections, the quality did kind of dip a bit in some parts, for me it was the essays on LSD and Trungpa Rinpoche that were tangentially art-related, but I really got into the essays about the ethics and history of building or design education projects like the Libre and Drop City communes (which were some dome/zome attempts in southern Colorado) and the Harrisons’ Techniques of Survival art projects (early “ecological art”).
West of Center was edited by Elissa Auther and Adam Lerner with a foreword by Lucy R. Lippard ( 2012)

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