Through May 28th, 2023-
The Haight Street Art Center is pleased to announce the opening of their new exhibition, “The Haight-Ashbury Experience and the Pursuit of Happiness: The Photography of Herb Greene,” a groundbreaking exhibition that will present the first career-long retrospective of San Francisco’s pioneering rock photographer.
A founding member of the Haight-Ashbury art community who went on to become an internationally acclaimed photographer, Herb Greene’s work embodied the spirit of the Haight-Ashbury before it was catapulted into media prominence. As a friend and contemporary of his subjects, Greene captured the elusive heart and soul of the musicians, artists, and fellow travelers who would play major roles in the nation’s counterculture of the 1960s. As they matured and earned greater fame, so did Greene, who became a leading rock portraitist, photographing Led Zeppelin, the Pointer Sisters, and many more. Greene was also the Grateful Dead’s favorite photographer, capturing the band over their three decades and beyond. “We are honored to present this stunning exhibition that explores the rich cultural history and impact of the Haight-Ashbury, beginning with its countercultural heyday in the 1960s," said the Art Center's executive director, Kelly Harris. "Through his photos, Herb Greene -- a giant in photography -- beautifully captures the essence of the musicians, characters, fashion, and establishments that opened the door to social change in America in the 1960s and '70s, an era that has remained influential for every generation ever since."
Greene’s career covers a half-century, dating to the mid-1960s. This era encompasses a critical period in photography as a medium and an artform, from the emergence of color photography to the advent of digital photography. His images of musicians turn sound into art, and they show how photography was an integral part of the larger art scene, connecting the music, poster art, and crafts that defined the Haight-Ashbury. Greene knew that the heart of the Haight was the music, and he photographed the bands and musicians long before they burst into national prominence. He also knew that the music was part of a larger story, and he photographed the poster artists and promoters, managers and roadies, and friends and family members who forged the scene and gave it life. Greene is a gifted documentary photographer, with an eye for the evocative moment. His graceful images capture the flash of history and the stories of the era, including events like the Great Human Be-In. “This time was so magical,“ says Greene. “I like to say it's like a fairytale. Like the roaring ‘20s - it'll never go away.” Greene was a friend of the Grateful Dead from their earliest days. His portraits of the band reveal the heart and humanity of the Dead’s timeless approach to music and community. Herb Greene’s wide-ranging portraits of the Dead not only helped to establish their reputation as the house band of the Haight-Ashbury, but they also cemented the Dead’s iconic association with San Francisco.
The compelling presentation -- which includes a reproduction of Greene’s famed “hieroglyphics wall” from his Baker Street apartment, where many of his indelible portraits were created -- will take place in the first floor Foyer and Great Room, the Art Center’s primary exhibition gallery. The exhibition is being guest-curated by renowned San Francisco gallerist Theron Kabrich, in conjunction with the Art Center staff. Visitors will experience Greene’s work in four different environments, creating an immersive, transformative, multi-sensory experience. Greene says, “I've never been one to stand on ceremony and I often downplay my own importance in it all, but this exhibition is a terrific honor, and very gratifying. I've had a lot of shows and recognition in media, but never seen anything quite like this that encompasses so much of my work. I often like to say, ‘The trip was not long enough, but it got pretty strange at times,’ and well, I hope people leave this exhibition smiling.”
The Haight Street Art Center serves San Francisco’s thriving poster art and artist communities with education and cultural development programs, and exhibitions. Drawing upon music, art, social and political counterculture history, we provide a space that bridges communities through social activism and artistic expression.