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Power to the People: The Graphic Design of the Radical Press and the Rise of the Counter-Culture, 1964-1974by Geoff Kaplan
Synopses & Reviews
Though we think of the 1960s and the early ‘70s as a time of radical social, cultural, and political upheaval, we tend to picture the action as happening on campuses and in the streets. Yet the rise of the underground newspaper was equally daring and original. Thanks to advances in cheap offset printing, groups involved in antiwar, civil rights, and other social liberation issues began to spread their messages through provocatively designed newspapers and broadsheets. This vibrant new media was essential to the counterculture revolution as a whole—helping to motivate the masses and proliferate ideas. Power to the People presents more than 700 full-color images and excerpts from these astonishing publications, many of which have not been seen since they were first published almost fifty years ago.
From the psychedelic pages of the Oracle, Haight-Ashbury’s paper of choice, to the fiery editorials of the Black Panther Party Paper, these papers were remarkable for their editors’ fervent belief in freedom of expression and their DIY philosophy. They were also extraordinary for their graphic innovations. Experimental typography and wildly inventive layouts reflect an alternative media culture as much informed by the space age, television, and socialism as it was by the great trinity of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll. Assembled by renowned graphic designer Geoff Kaplan, Power to the People pays homage in its layout to the radical press. Beyond its unparalleled images, Power to the People includes essays by Gwen Allen, Bob Ostertag, and Fred Turner, as well as a series of recollections edited by Pamela M. Lee, all of which comment on the critical impact of the alternative press in the social and popular movements of those turbulent years. Power to the People treats the design practices of that moment as activism in its own right that offers a vehement challenge to the dominance of official media and a critical form of self-representation.
No other book surveys in such variety the highly innovative graphic design of the underground press, and certainly no other book captures the era with such an unmatched eye toward its aesthetic and look. Power to the People is not just a major compendium of art from the ’60s and ’70s—it showcases how the radical media graphically fashioned the image of a countercultural revolution that still resounds to this day.
"With its low cost of entry — only a typewriter, artwork, a mimeograph, and a point of view were required — underground newspapers flourished during the '60s and early '70s, covering a plethora of topics (sex, corruption, alternative lifestyles, etc.) mainstream media couldn't or wouldn't touch. Here, California College of Art instructor Kaplan examines the depth and breadth of these publications in a graphic-rich study. Instead of focusing on landmark articles, Kaplan's short bursts of narrative are broken up by lengthy reproductions of newspaper and magazine covers, articles, and inserts. Guest authors explore various concepts ('Design as a Social Movement') with varying degrees of success — though failure isn't always their fault; Kaplan frequently breaks up the narrative with lengthy spreads of images, forcing readers to flip back and forth in order to keep the story going. His typographical play doesn't help either, as he employs various period-inspired fonts, type sizes, and colors throughout the book that add little to the experience. Still, Kaplan deserves commendation for assembling a collection that manages to include viewpoints from all reaches of the underground; those who were there and students of the form will appreciate his efforts. (June)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Geoff Kaplan has produced projects for a range of academic and cultural institutions, and his work is included in the permanent collections of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and MoMA. He lives in San Francisco and teaches in the Graduate Program of Design at the California College of Art.
Table of Contents
Introduction, by Geoff Kaplan
Design as a Social Movement, by Gwen Allen
Bohemian Technocracy and the Countercultural Press, by Fred Turner
The Underground Press: A History, by Bob Ostertag
What We Were Reading: The Creation of a Counter-public Sphere, edited by Pamela M. Lee Tim Clark, Steven Heller, Nancy Holt, Todd Gitlin, Harmony Hammond, Chip Lord, Margo Machida, Yvonne Rainer, Terry Smith, Lawrence Weiner, Faith Wilding
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