BAMPFA “Hippie Modernism” exhibit featuring rare Emeryville Mudflat photos

2 mins read

The University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) launched a region-wide celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love with its exhibit “Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia.” The exhibition explores the intersection of the radical art, architecture and design of the 60’s and early 70’s and the resonance of these innovations today. Included in the exhibit will be fifty never before exhibited images of our fabled Emeryville Mudflat Art.

The exhibition will coincide with the 1st anniversary of BAMPFA’s heralded new building in DT Berkeley.

The exhibit highlights the key role our region played in the 60’s and 70’s counterculture movement and includes a special focus on the transformative design and architecture of Northern California. These designs range from the hand-built houses in Sausalito, the original design of the now ubiquitous recycle symbol, and of course our infamous Emeryville mudflat driftwood sculptures that existed until the late 90’s.

Joey Enos, who wrote an in-depth trilogy on the Mudlflat Art for the E’ville Eye, helped research the collection of mudflat art photos. “I’ve been researching a collection created by Robert Sommer at CCA for many years now” Enos explained. “The collection is made up of Sommers photos and ephemera from thirty years of watching the Emeryville Mudflats, from 1960s until their demise in the late 1990’s.”

Enos worked alongside guest exhibit curator Greg Castillo who works as the Associate Professor of Architecture at UC Berkeley. Enos was a graduate student under Castillo and aware was of Enos’ intense interest in the subject. Many of the images featured had never been published until Enos’ recent series on The E’ville Eye.

60’s era photo of the erection of a mudflats piece by photographer Robert Sommer (Photo courtesy of CCA-SF).

Current Emeryville Mayor and sculpture artist Scott Donahue resided in Emeryville during this era and remembers it fondly. While Donahue was not active in creating the mudflat sculptures, he recalled the amount of debris our shoreline collected and how it helped foster awareness of the impact of trash on our ecology. “Some years the amount of detritus that washed into the Emeryville Crescent could yield a structure bigger than the Shell station!” There have been many discussions within the City of Emeryville and our various committees on how we can better feature and acknowledge this rich part of our city’s history.

Additional exhibition highlights include:

  • Community Memory, a computerized public bulletin board system established in Berkeley in 1973, making it one of the first-ever digital social networks
  • Archival materials from Bay Area protest movements and collectives, including the Indians of All Tribes’ nineteen-month-long occupation of Alcatraz (1969–71) and the gender-bending performances of the Cockettes and the Angels of Light
  • Works by Bay Area artists and designers, including Frances Butler, Gordon Ashby, J.B. Blunk, Sonya Rapoport, and Bonnie Ora Sherk
  • Posters from the Chicago Women’s Graphics Collective, the Black Panthers, the Mexican-American Liberation Art Front, and the 1970 Gay-In in Griffith Park

The museum has also created an innovative augmented reality app called Free the Love available on iTunes. The app provides a “Love Tour” of the Bay Area and highlights prominent sites of the hippie and counterculture movement and other interactive features (sadly, there is no “love” for our mudflats in this interactive tour :/).


“It was an incredible pleasure to help share with the world the role the Emeryville Mudflats had on the world and the exposing the many radical ideas of free speech and art that came directly out of the Emeryville Mudflats” added Enos. “This sculptures are loved by many who remember them and I believed helped to inspire the Bay Area to be the voice of progress and hope within the world.”

The exhibit will also present a series of public talks, free screenings and forums featuring local artists, designers, and scholars. Hippie Modernism will be on view from February 8 through May 21, 2017.

Exhibit Information:

Web: bampfa.berkeley.edu/program/hippie-modernism-struggle-utopia
Gallery Admission: $12
Wed/Thu/Sun: 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Fri & Sat: 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.

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Rob Arias

is a third generation Californian and East Bay native who lived in Emeryville from 2003 to 2021. Rob founded The E'ville Eye in 2011 after being robbed at gunpoint and lamenting the lack of local news coverage. Rob's "day job" is as a creative professional.

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