In the United States, the 1960s marked a period of significant change. Highly charged political events like the Cold War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Vietnam War, and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy lead to a generation of fed-up young people who wanted to tune-in, turn on, and drop out. The counterculture movement was an opportunity to question authority and detach from the materialism that marked the 1950s.
These shifts lead to the Civil Rights Movement and the second wave Feminist Movement, which sought equality for African Americans and women respectively through federal laws that made discrimination illegal. The music scene of the 1960s was in flux as well. Rock and roll remained popular, but many of the top artists of the day were from England, like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, and they experimented with adding different styles to their sound. The musical landscape further opened up to include folk music, girl groups, and Motown.
In the visual realm, artists like Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein were part of the Pop Art moment which elevated ordinary objects, comic books, and advertisements to high art. The similarly named Op Art movement played with optical illusions and wild patterns. The undeniable look of the ‘60s, though, was psychedelic. Borrowing from turn-of-the century Art Nouveau, Psychedelic Art combines flowing, organic lines with rubbery, distorted shapes in saturated colors, and ornate lettering styles.
Minimalism was another style that was explored throughout the decade. A further refinement of Abstract Expressionism, Minimalism attempted to pare art down to its absolute basics of material and process, shape, line, and color. Though abstraction was dominant, many regional artists continued to work in a more realistic style, showcasing the many competing modes in the turbulent 1960s.