Art Crisis! A Free & High Government!, 1968
Sture Johannesson’s psychedelic posters scandalised the progressive Swedish society of the sixties. His defence of psychotropic substances, used as a critique of State control, provoked censorship in both public and private institutions. For more than twenty years, his poster production served to denounce that the way in which society builds and transmits its patterns of authority is ultimately more hallucinatory than the effects of any drug.
Prominent among his series of works is Danish Collection, a set of eleven posters printed in 1967–69 at Permild & Rosengreen, a printing press in Copenhagen that produced posters for famous Danish artists such as the Abstract Expressionist Asger Jorn. Danish Collection encapsulates the most significant elements of Johannesson’s production: his psychedelic aesthetics, saturated flat colours, innovative graphics and a poignant social critique. Some were made to advertise exhibitions – notably Palle Nielsen’s Model for a Qualitative Society (1968) at the Moderna Museet, Stockholm.
In contrast to the typical psychedelic art of the period, which took its cues from Art Nouveau and nineteenth-century handbills, Johannesson’s work combines a typographic, collage style inspired by John Heartfield and Hannah Hoch with the clarity and impact of commercial publicity. ‘Johannesson’s poster pieces took a lot of the visual cues from the international psychedelic movement – the LSD palette, the counterculture politics, the sense of fluidity, but what made them unusual was they were made in an art context. Johannesson’s graphic works often appear closer to constructivism and Rodchenko than Fillmore-era rock posters. The artist’s style refused to be pinned down.’ (Francesca Gavin: ‘Sture Johannesson’, Dazed, July 2012)
Johannesson’s radicality is mostly due to the written messages on his posters: Dow Shalt Not Kill! U.S.A. – Union of Stoned Anarchists; Sweet Malinda! Alcohol is The Imperial Wizard; Andrée Will Take A Trip! Anything Which Can Be Done Chemically Can Be Done By Other Means! . Danish Collection always caused controversy. The poster Turn on the Institutions, with the message The Kingdom is Within You, was intended to hang on the façade of the Royal Palace in Stockholm. Others wanted to provoke a crisis in art with a free exchange in the market: Art Crisis! A Free & High Government!
Johannesson most notorious poster Freedom on the Barricades II, originally titled Revolution Means Revolutionary Consciousness, was commissioned in 1968 by the Lunds Konsthall for their Underground exhibition, which was to take place in 1969. Known as Hash Girl (Hashflicka in Swedish), the poster caused an uproar. Conceived as a paraphrasing of Eugène Delacroix’s famous painting Liberty Leading the People (1830), the poster shows a bright pink naked woman smoking hash in a long-stemmed pipe, against a floral background with a marihuana leaf and a reproduction of Delacroix’s painting in the top right-hand corner. At the end of 1968, Folke Edwards, director of the Lunds Konsthall (the most progressive Swedish museum at the time), was forced to resign and the exhibition was cancelled. Ironically, since the 2000s the image has been frequently used in films and Swedish commercials.
- Original title:
- Art Crisis! A Free & High Government!
- Registration number:
- Johannesson, Sture
- Date created:
- Date acquired:
- MACBA Collection. MACBA Consortium
- Object type:
- Graphic material
- Screen print on paper
- 71 x 49.7 cm (height x width)
- MACBA Collection. MACBA Consortium
- © Sture Johannesson. Legal Visions
- It has accessibility resources:
The MACBA Collection features Catalan, Spanish and international art and, although it includes works from the 1920s onwards, its primary focus is on the period between the 1960s and the present.
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