As we stand poised on the brink of a new year, a new decade, a new century, indeed, a new millennium, it's fun to reflect back and look at years, decades, and centuries from the past trying to gauge their overall impact upon who we art today. It's easy, for instance, to say that this past century, the twentieth, has had the greatest impact of any of the last twenty centuries. One only has to look at who and what we are now and what we were a hundred years ago to say that. Humanity has changed more in the last one hundred years than in the previous five hundred. Alvin Toffler in his 1970 book, Future Shock, had it right in saying that the faster things change the faster they will change. We have only to wonder if there is any limit to how fast they can change. And though we didn't realise it at the time, but the decade that spawned Toffler's book, the 1960s, is quite likely the most important decade in this century in terms of the radical changes that took place. They was the years the "baby boomers" first came of age and the world has never been the same since.
It was not a decade for the faint of heart. It was a decade when we took a strong whiff, if not a taste, of nuclear war. It scared us. It was a time when a President got his brains blown out, also his younger brother and black brother. It was a time when we stumbled into a war and for the first time in history, got our ass whipped for it. It was a time of fast cars, fast food, and fast sex. Television rose to new heights, movies fell to new lows. Beatniks were out, Beatles and Beetles were in, and a future senator told us that The Beat Goes On. Indeed, the whole decade rocked. It was a musical journey that started in Memphis, detoured to Liverpool, and ended at Woodstock. It began with Sonny and Cher and ended with Donnie and Marie. It was a decade that gave birth to roaring metal dinosaurs with tail fins and squeaked out with subcompact mice. It was a decade that began with Sputnik shock and ended on the moon in "Future Shock."
In art, the 60's saw the demise of Abstract Expressionism, the rise of Pop, a burst of Op, and ended with the whimpering whisper of Minimalism. Art came from all sources, from the funny pages, and from the front pages. It was as small as the Love stamp and as big as a Christo canyon curtain. The very definition of art expanded to the point it became nearly impossible to define. Psychedelia ruled the college campuses, Psycho ruled the box-office, and Hair ruled Broadway. In fact, hair ruled everywhere.
Warhol became a household name. Campbell's soup moved from the grocery store to the art gallery. Artists once more learned to paint neatly. Realism returned. Marilyn died. Madonna was born. It was the only decade in history that ever took another decade to recover from. It was a decade like none before, like none since. It was a decade that made us what we are today.