Embroidered hospital scrub top and lithograph poster in de Young museum's "Summer of Love Experience" exhibit

Flashback to 1967

Nostalgic exhibit takes you back to San Francisco’s trippy summer of love

BY CHANEY KWAK | PHOTOGRAPHY BY FINE ARTS MUSEUMS OF SAN FRANCISCO

Fifty years have passed since tens of thousands of so-called flower children descended on San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, changing the course of history in music, fashion, and politics. This year, the city’s de Young Museum commemorates the semicentennial of this  global movement with an ambitious new exhibition. “The Summer of Love Experience: Art, Fashion, and Rock & Roll” brings together psychedelic posters, original fashion, and light shows through Aug. 20. The display encompasses more than 400 items, including Jerry Garcia’s “Captain Trips” hat, tie-dye fabric salvaged from the Grateful Dead office, and photographs of Bob Dylan, Allen Ginsberg, and Janis Joplin.

“We tried to be as true to the period as possible,” says Jill D’Alessandro, the museum’s curator of textile and costume arts. “The challenge is to exhibit things that were so interactive, like concerts.”

To transport visitors to the summer a half-century ago, the show features an authentic soundtrack of live concerts and archival film footage. Artist Bill Ham created an installation that projects light through layers of liquid dyed with brilliant food coloring, encapsulating the epoch’s trippy spirit.

At the heart of the exhibition is Haight Street Gallery, featuring walls of boldly colorful concert fliers. Popular attire such as prairie dresses and fringe-top leather jackets re-create the mood of the time, and sections devoted to shopping and the social justice movement reflect the manifold aspects of the 1960s zeitgeist.

De Young Museum’s location in Golden Gate Park provides a perfect backdrop for this historical re-enactment. San Francisco’s 1,017-acre playground hosted “The Human Be-In,” which kicked off the countercultural movement of 1967. Make sure to climb to the top of the museum’s Hamon Observation Tower, which offers a bird’s-eye view over the park — as well as the city that has changed so much since the Summer of Love. But you can still wear flowers in your hair. 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive; 415-750-3600; deyoung.famsf.org

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