The Electric Circus, 1967

Jacqui Morgan


The Electric Circus, 1967


First printing lithograph, Excellent, backed with linen


Framed: 48 3/4" tall x 33 3/4" wide





Detail, hand

Detail, flower

Close-up of frame

Frame at angle


Jacqui Morgan, (Feb. 22, 1939 – July 3, 2013) born Jacquelynn Morganstern in New York, was an American illustrator, educator and watercolor painter. She became influential during the 1960s and 1970s with the youthful and psychedelic style of her illustrations. She was one of the first female commercial illustrator/designers in the United States. This 1967 poster for the New York City club Electric Circus is considered a milestone of 20th century graphic design.



Morgan, working in concentrated watercolor, ink, and colored pencil, had developed a style she would describe as "anthropomorphic double-images". Surreal juxtapositions, bright rainbow-like color patterns, nude figures, and curved lines are characteristic of her works.



The Electric Circus was a nightclub located at 19-25 St. Marks Place in New York City’s East Village from 1967 to August 1971. With its invitation (from one of its press releases) to "play games, dress as you like, dance, sit, think, tune in and turn on," and its mix of light shows, music, circus performers and experimental theater, the Electric Circus embodied the wild and creative side of 1960s club culture.



Flame throwing jugglers and trapeze artists performed between musical sets, strobe lights flashed over a huge dance floor, and multiple projectors flashed images and footage from home movies. Seating was varied, with sofas provided. The Electric Circus became "New York's ultimate mixed-media pleasure dome, and its hallucinogenic light baths enthralled every sector of New York society." Its hedonistic atmosphere also influenced the later rise of disco culture and discotheques.



The  walls were plastered to eliminate right angles. So the effect was being in a big cavern. One area was filled with large tubes that one could crawl around in and there were little nooks for people to sit in and hang out. It was a statement against the idea of a uniform set of seats lined up facing in all one direction.



Bands that played the Electric Circus included the Velvet Underground, the Grateful Dead, Ike & Tina Turner, the Allman Brothers, Sly & the Family Stone, and The Chambers Brothers.



By 1970 the "tune in, turn on" hippie culture was in decline. When a small bomb, exploded on the dance floor on March 22, 1970, injuring fifteen people, the negative publicity accelerated the decline of the club; it closed a year and a half later in August 1971 (two months after the Fillmore East)

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