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.
“Before there was the Internet and desktop publishing, there was the underground press—a rich, irreverent source of information, opinion, and outrageousness that is all too difficult to access today. With Power to the People
Geoff Kaplan has brought together a rowdy and stimulating collection of design from the 1960s and ’70s that will be an inspiration and an indispensable resource to anyone who wants to speak out in the 21st century.”
“A handsome, comprehensive look at the drawings, collages and mash-ups that winked, blasted and shrieked from the pages of the underground press of the 1960s and 1970s. The result is a visual chronicle of the successes and excesses of the time. Smart essays—serious but not solemn —place the papers and the surges that launched them in political / cultural / artistic context. It’s especially good on the technological innovations that allowed creators with little money and even less experience to provide counter-news and blow the doors off cultural stodginess.”
“When we started the International Times
in London in 1966 there were only half a dozen underground papers in the US and none in Europe; a year later there were several hundred. Looking at this superb collection of pages from the underground press I am struck by how innovative and imaginative they were, particularly considering that the majority of them were designed by amateurs. This overview includes many papers that are new to me and is surely destined to become the standard work on the subject.”
“Power to the People serves as a significant slice of countercultural history. It graphically captures the experimentation, anger, compassion, humor, and soul of that idealistic era. This anthology will provide you with images that may well bring back memories you never had.”
“The production methods of the Vietnam era underground press seem crude compared to today’s digital technology, but they freed non-corporate journalists, artists, designers, and political activists to publish stunning layout and radical writing cheaply, easily, and in huge quantities, enough to create a worldwide revolution whose effects are still being felt today. In Power to the People,
Geoff Kaplan has created a select kaleidoscopic gallery of cover and inside page designs from the vast portfolio of papers that the Vietnam era antiwar countercultural community gifted to the world through their personal struggles, celebrations, and discoveries. Valuable accompanying essays describe how it was done, and also draw the connection to today’s social media radicals, whose roots—whether they know it or not (and too often they don’t)—are with the underground press—and who owe it to themselves to read everything they can about these papers.”
"Power to the People
reproduces stunning covers of radical late '60s and early '70s papers . . . including The Black Panther
, Paul Krassner's The Realist
and the long-running Off Our Backs
. This is a remarkable collection curating artifacts from the diverse worlds of feminists, leftists, technology visionaries, gays and other factions all liberated by cheap printing. . . . The powerful images Geoff Kaplan has expertly assembled are each worth an eloquent thousand words."
"Railing against a senseless war, pollution, and police violence while celebrating the many social and cultural advances of the time, this passionate artwork, like Renaissance painting, crystallizes a spirit that is obviously dated, but also timeless."
“Documenting the power and significance of the counterculture publications of the sixties (understood, culturally, as the years between the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the end of the Vietnam War), this volume is a superb contribution to several disciplines. Historians and students of cultural history, graphic design, political history, and American Studies will discover a beautifully designed book that thoroughly explores the graphics of the period and their impact. . . . Highly recommended.”
About the Author
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