Rolling Stone magazine, it has been claimed, helped define a generation. But in so many decisive senses, including the wholesale capitulation to the feeding frenzy of globalization and thuggish narcissism, we can now confidently claim that it was the generation that failed. Don't get me wrong. I love to see photographs of Jimi Hendrix and James Taylor. Unfortunately I was witness to the mass exodus from the so-called counter-culture back in the late seventies and early eighties. From Hawaii to San Francisco, from Boulder to New York, I watched an entire generation turn themselves into preposterous marionettes in a widening circle of imperial carnage, many of them leaving their scruples in the gutter as they rushed to support Reaganomics, the Patriot Act and, finally, the war in Iraq (Rolling Stone itself regularly sandwiches military recruitment ads in between its "cutting-edge" anti-war reporting.) Of course, none of this is the fault of Baron Wolman, former photographer for Rolling Stone. Wolman's photographs from 1967 to 1970 radiate a warmth and authenticity that is all but lost in the clown-like celebrities we're stuck with now.
Baron Wolman was Rolling Stone magazine's first chief photographer, documenting the three-year-long "Summer of Love" and the musicians that made it so lovely. Working mainly in black and white, Wolman's now famous images recall a time when people still believed musicians and artists, as celebrities, were socially valid entities. Lacking the modern era's slick, cosmetic, cyborg sex appeal, the compelling and accomplished musicians of the late sixties come alive with all of their vulnerabilities and sensitivities candidly bared for the world to see. This is a time when Janis Joplin-with no make-up and without even brushing her hair-could look positively reflective and scholarly beside today's disturbingly hallucinatory Fergie. And James Taylor, despite the forlorn gridlock of his country rock, comes off looking more grunge than Kurt Cobain. They were all that without even trying. Dylan doesn't look like he's trying to be Dylan, much in the same way Margaret Thatcher wasn't a Thatcherite, or Karl Marx a Marxist. Looking strictly at the work, it is evident that Baron Wolman possessed the rare ability to capture the human gesture at the core of those bold visions and radical dreams that now lie like roadkill on the Interstate of our newer and crankier world. Even so, the photos would have radiated more energy had they been separated from Rolling Stone, that purveyor of slop for what Hunter Thompson would have referred to as "A Generation of Swine."
Andrew Smith Gallery
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