The current resurgence of psychedelic art in America should give some indication of the socio-political climate these days. In short: there seems no good news for the sobriety of centrism anymore; the left leans ever further left in counter-balance to the extremism on the right. Pop culture remains the reductive index of it all.

Jason Leinwand‘s work lands smack-dab in the center of this nu-psych crusade and as such draws heavily on the genre’s two doyens: Paul Laffoley and Fred Tomaselli. I see the lighter mysticism of Alex Grey and the kitsch of Robert Bearns here too. Regardless the influence, Leinwand’s mastery of form lies not in its originality, but in the high-level of technique that yields works such as A Moment for Reflection Before Crossing the Event Horizon (below).

In terms of structure, the color pencil drawing is almost classical in its dimension and proportion. Everything to the left of the composition is balanced by its mirror image on the right. Nothing new there either, as psychedelic art has long been obsessed with the “secret code” behind the universe, waiting to be discovered, like Euclidian geometry or Plato’s universal forms. Where psychedelia differs is in its impervious attitude to rationality.

For Leinwand—whose C.V. says he’s originally from Middletown, CT—the grotesque, the conspiratorial, and the ephemeral are a comfort zone. He often falls back on rainbow prisms, op-art patterns, starry backdrops, and mystical symbols, like eyeballs and religious mandalas. That they cohere in ways that don’t signal the anarchism of early ’70s hippie-dom, but instead that of the educated, middle-class aesthete, says a lot about how far the center has eroded in the last 40 years. Extreme is the new normal. Would anyone really be surprised by a Bernie Sanders-Donald Trump face-off next November? (Brian Chidester)

"A Moment for Reflection Before Crossing the Event Horizon" (2011)

“A Moment for Reflection Before Crossing the Event Horizon” (2011)