“The zeitgeist at 1967 was magical. The magician portrayed was symbolic of the illusion of the physical world and our god-given free will to create what we want in life. In hindsight it was a bit naive, the powers of evil don’t let go of their greed easily. At the time it seemed nothing was impossible and there was a genuine belief the world was going to be a better place.” - Marijke Koger-Dunham
There was no better place to be for those interested in psychedelia, or the history of the genre, than the Los Angeles opening of the Sonos Studios’ career retrospective of Marijke Koger-Dunham, titled Freedom.
The product of revolutionary change both in the streets and on the canvas, Koger-Dunham’s work, especially that of the 60′s and 70′s, is a must see for those interested in “incense and peppermint, and her groundbreaking murals, prints, paintings, fashion design and forays into music were all on display for a crowd eager to experience the roots of late sixties pop art and the oeuvre of a woman who could easily be dubbed the godmother of psychedelia.
Koger-Dunham designed clothing for The Beatles and Cream, created custom-painted instruments for John Lennon, Eric Clapton and George Harrison, printed posters sold at the counter culture shops of the day and was commissioned as a muralist to exercise her talents in large format for The Beatles’ Apple Boutique and the Aquarius Theatre’s original production of Hair in Los Angeles. The show presented a carefully curated range of Koger-Dunham’s work past and present, including rare lithographs, sketches of costume designs and some of Koger-Dunham’s recent equestrian paintings as well as fashion illustrations for clothing sold, not in head shops, but at Nordstrom’s and Saks Fifth Avenue. As a founding member of the art collective “The Fool,” Kroger executed album artwork for the likes of The Beatles, The Incredible String Band and other seminal musical groups. All of this was on display, paired with the sounds of a live performance by Marijke’s close friend Booker T. Jones, as well as playlists of musical output from the era that she worked in and the many prominent musicians she worked alongside.
It was almost impossible to take in the full kaleidoscope of Marijke’s work. The walls were hung with paintings and original albums of such a tremendous flux of hue and pattern that the onrush of color could, at times, feel like one was being carried away on The Yellow Submarine.
There were, of course, photographs and paintings that stood out from the rest by the nature of their historical significance. One example was the original murals and pieces from The Beatles’ Apple Cultural Center in London. Her relationship with the iconic band ran deep. The name of the cultural center is an interesting one as well, as the show was peppered with Sonos speakers and sound equipment and the opening was set to iTunes playlists of music from the late sixties. The pairing of the art and electronics seemed fitting as Marijke’s work often stood at the nexus of aesthetics and commerce.
“She’s a genius and she takes this very very seriously,” stated David Kramer (of Family Bookstore), the curator and program director for the show. “She wrote me an entire page about each piece in the show.” He also stated that much effort was put into locating just the right constellation of elements that would both expose Koger-Dunham’s early significance and path-breaking artistic agenda as well as leave room for some of her more recent work, as she has by no means abandoned artistic practice.
At a time where icons come and go in historical milliseconds, Freedom stood as a testament to an extraordinary, multifaceted artist obtaining the recognition she deserved, long after her primary impact had been felt. It was a crash course in psychedelia for the uninitiated and a more subtle investigation of Marijke Koger-Dunham’s work for those with some knowledge of her tremendous influence on the art of the late sixties counter-culture.
Marijke Koger-Dunham’s work will be on view at Sonos Studio, 145 N. LaBrea Ave., Los Angeles, through July 22. The space is open Wednesday through Sunday from 12-6 pm.