With the exception of R. Crumb and the other comix and concert poster creators, possibly no other artist is more associated with the Sixties than M.C. Escher (and no, kiddies, he’s not a rapper!). Though not psychedelic in the least, his often grayscale images bent reality in so many different ways simultaneously that they became known as the go-to stuff to look at while you were high (or beyond):
M.C. Escher did his work by combining the rational eye of a draftsman, the soul of an artist, and the mind of a mathematician. He created his “impossible” versions of reality by stretching the bounds of perspective. Escher also worked with tesselations, in which images are made up of mathematically precise smaller images. Escher’s work is generally instantly recognizable, and in fact his “interlocking reptiles” were sold as the Shmuzzles toy in the early 1980s (one of the few things I regret not buying back then).
It’s kind of humbling to realize that many of his most famous visionary works were made while Hitler’s armies were rolling over most of Europe, including Escher’s own country of the Netherlands.
I was a total fan of Escher back in the Sixties, so imagine how I felt when I was able to travel to Amsterdam in the early 1970s — while Escher was still alive! — and see many of his works right there in his own country. You can also imagine how I felt going to Amsterdam and buying hash in one of their even-then infamous “coffee shops”…pretty much like the first time I walked into a dispensary almost exactly 39 years later. But back then it was very exotic indeed, and it was doubly wonderful by being able to see his works in their full size, since before then, I had almost always seen them as small reprints.
I was especially taken with Reptiles (note the pack of rolling papers!) and Metamorphosis II. For the latter, nothing would do except I had to make the biggest copy ever and tape it to my wall so I could follow it around while high. Later on, I even felt so connected to Escher that as an expression of what I thought was his original intention, I made a printed copy of Metamorphosis II on a Mobius strip to show my sons how it truly went on forever.
Escher’s work has inspired not only the odd Weedist but also many artists, as well as literally dozens of imitations and shout-outs in popular culture from Futurama to Donnie Darko. You can still go to the Netherlands and see his works in his museum, and he even has an asteroid named in his honor.