The Gildless Age
SEPTEMBER 24, 2016, 3PM
Curator Denise Johnson and Gordon Winiemko will discuss The Endless Summer and other media that produced an idealized vision of the West as a place abundant in resources and endless splendor, to be conquered. The postcolonial critique will take scenes from Bruce Brown's surf documentary to trace the Gilded Age ethos that encouraged mindless exploitation of natural and human resources, and has evolved into mounting anxiety, extreme racism, discouraging social injustice, and ever growing wealth disparities that are predicted to grow wider and last longer than they ever have in the modern age.
John Van Hamersveld’s 1964 poster for Bruce Brown’s The Endless Summer presents a contradiction - silhouettes of svelte youths assuredly looking to the horizon for the next epic wave, bathed in a hyper acrid glow that seems to foretell a scene more apocalyptic than tubular. Although widely used after the documentary took theaters by storm, the combination of fluorescent pink and DayGlo orange for the low budget surfer flick advert were novel in the '60s, having previously been used primarily by the military for the faces of instruments and gauges during WWII. Most likely an unintended critique of the then just recently escalated Vietnam War, the intensity and unusualness of Van Hamersveld’s palette and design are striking in their minimalist detachment. Perhaps it is simply the contemporary mood that tints the densely silkscreened layers of color as cautionary rather than enticing.