A week after the attempted comeback of the most significant political movement of the new century, a triptych by photographer Richard Avedon now on display in New York gets a person thinking about the clues radicals have used over the years to signal their political beliefs. The ”photo mural” in question, part of an exhibit that opened over the weekend at the Gagosian Gallery in Chelsea, features the Chicago Seven—the activists, Abbie Hoffman among them, charged with conspiracy after protesting the Vietnam War at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Though taken in 1969, as the Seven were awaiting trial, the three-part image looks as though it could have been shot in today’s Williamsburg. Many of the men are wearing high-waisted jeans; a couple are in whimsically striped shirts; two wear funky glasses; one has a woven belt, tied in a big knot. There’s also plenty of facial hair to go around. As a group, they come off as more goofily disdainful than revolutionary.
At the same time, they look quite different from their bourgeois contemporaries pictured on the other side of the gallery: the members of Allen Ginsberg’s extended family. Those photos feature men in crisp suits and requisite ties, ladies in polite cocktail dresses and kitten heels. No one would’ve mistaken the Ginsbergs for Yippies—members of the countercultural 60’s youth movement that Hoffman helped to found—just as no one would’ve mistaken Hoffman for a banker or any other kind of office worker. […]
But these days, differentiating the activists from the bourgeoisie on the basis of their attire can be much harder than it was in the past—perhaps in part because of the speed with which the fashion world is able to transfer looks from city trendsetters to malls across America.
Read more. [Image: The Richard Avedon Foundation]