European + American Art

Pop, beach, sex + sun

Artists of the post-war ‘Baby Boomer’ generation that emerged during the late 1960s and 1970s attempted to revise the kind of imagery and subject matter that defined how Australians saw themselves. Their work challenged and often updated the iconic images of Australian life, using ideas that reflected the politics and style of counter-cultural movements such as women’s liberation and feminism, the anti-war movement, land-rights, environmental activism and gay liberation.

Some of the works produced at this time, especially in posters, were overtly political. Many others reflected artists’ immersion not only in concepts of vitalism, health and fitness (and community safety expressed through the Surf Lifesaving movement), but also in the hedonistic opportunities offered by contemporary life in Australia — a place of the beach, sex, drugs, music and popular culture. There were numerous alternative communities where artistic expression flourished with a common desire to integrate the worlds of art, music, literature, theatre and popular culture.

The key to the cultural significance of this work is the way that it re-examined myths associated with Australian life. More recently still, contemporary artists have challenged stereotypes of beach culture and the great outdoors and reconsidered the place of suburban experience in the Australian story.