There’s a moment of realization when you smoke a bit of grass and stare at a blacklight poster. The vibrating fluorescent colors seem to draw you into another, more trippy, realm, and the blatant connection between blacklight art and the psychedelic movement of the '60s suddenly makes a lot of sense.
Although blacklight paint was originally developed for military use in the late 1930s, it was the counterculture movement of the '60s that really embraced the medium. As the use of psychedelics like LSD and mind-expanding plants like cannabis increased, blacklight art found a new place amongst cosmic artists. With the ability to glow and vibrate under ultraviolet light, blacklight posters can simulate the sensations and visual distortions you might experience during an acid trip, or a nice high.
As more folks started expanding their minds, blacklight art expanded too. Starting with concert posters for iconic venues like the Fillmore, the medium was soon being used by all kinds of artists. Imagery ranged from tripped-out cartoons and bizarre acid-soaked illustrations, to politically-charged paintings and propaganda campaigns. Blacklight grew alongside the counterculture movement, acting as a wild, untethered historical archive.
By the end of the '70s blacklight art had fallen out of trend, and for the next few decades became a relic of a far-out past. But with the recent wave of interest in psychedelic treatments and the legalization of cannabis, a new era of mind exploration has arrived. And along with this movement comes a renewed interest in blacklight art.
Old Pal recently partnered with These Days in Los Angeles to curate a gallery showing of blacklight work. The show, titled Dilated Pupils, presented a selection of classic blacklight works alongside a collection of contemporary blacklight art. The variance in art created for the show offered a beautiful insight into the wide range of psychedelic experience and visuals that can be explored with the medium.
Working with Elena Stonaker, Old Pal also curated a life drawing event. Guests were invited to sketch a surrealist scene created by Stonaker with neon sculptures and models painted in fluorescent tones. This new exploration of blacklight created an incredibly beautiful and bizarre experience, and after smoking a bit of grass, it all made a lot of sense.