With April 20 approaching, we got to thinking about how the day attained its great smoke-out status. We discovered that the roughly 40-year-old ritual is not a police code for marijuana, nor is it the date Bob Marley, Janis Joplin or Jimi Hendrix died (in case you were wondering, none of them died in April). Rather, the haziest of holidays was initiated in the early 1970s by a group of Northern California teenagers who relished a particular moment, 4:20 p.m., when class bells rang and they could finally smoke a joint on school grounds.
Recently marijuana has found its way into state legislatures and regulated dispensaries. In 2012 Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize cannabis. Many others have decriminalized possession of the drug, citing the disproportionate arrests of blacks and Latinos, or approved it for medical purposes. Just this week, Maryland became the 21st state to permit marijuana use—as a treatment for severe pain, nausea and seizures.
To commemorate a landmark 4/20, in an election year that will see several referendums on marijuana, Creative Time Reports presents a selection of artworks that examine our complex relationships to the drug. Some investigate the subcultures that have developed around pot or the politics that circumscribe its cultivation and distribution, while others depict the beauty of the cannabis leaf and bud. As far as we know, only one artist included here actually grows weed—Fred Tomaselli, who is well known for embedding cannabis (and many other controlled substances) directly into his psychedelic paintings. Here’s to an exquisite plant that has provided so much aesthetic pleasure, licit or illicit, for so many.
The artist and musician Melanie Bernier has sewn together gorgeous spliff packs using vinyl and thread. The “spliffs” pictured below are made of carved wood, spray paint and marker.
In 1978 the performance artist Chris Burden flew model planes carrying joints over the U.S.-Mexico border—a whimsical action compared with the deadly cross-border marijuana trade that is today worth billions of dollars.
Matthew Spiegelman’s photos of pot smokers and their paraphernalia, collected in the limited-edition book Officioné, elegantly capture the hallmark accessories of stoner culture, from dreads to pipes to tie-dye.
For parents who smoke responsibly, Ricardo Cortés wrote and illustrated the children’s book It’s Just a Plant, which follows a young girl as she learns about weed from her parents, a local farmer, a doctor and a police officer.
With Bong Hit Station, the sculptor, installation artist and painter Tom Sachs offers a step-by-step how-to for a ludicrous yet undeniably appealing “marijuana transaction.”
Tom Sachs, Bong Hit Station, 2013. Courtesy Tom Sachs Studio.
The photographer Andrew Zuckerman snapped these shots of weed at Oaksterdam, an Oakland medical marijuana school, just a few weeks before the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration raided it in April 2012.
The Planet as Festival: Study for a Dispenser of Incense, LSD, Marijuana, Opium, Laughing Gas is part of the Italian architect and designer Ettore Sottsass’s vision for a utopia in which, in his words, individuals may “come to know by means of their bodies, their psyche, and their sex, that they are living.”
For his series “From the Secret Garden of Sleep,” the Danish artist Joachim Koester photographed homegrown cannabis plants, highlighting the exotic hybrids that growers have recently been developing.
The Moscow-based artist Dmitry Bulnygin tracked the street presence of marijuana-plant stencils across 27 cities in 11 countries for this video of “150 bushes.”
Dmitry Bulnygin, 11 стран, 27 городов, 150 кустов / 11 Countries, 27 Cities, 150 Bushes, 2014.
Celebrating the communal nature of smoking, Eric Doeringer created a bong from which four people can simultaneously smoke while sitting on matching plush beanbags (also designed and fabricated by the artist).
A photographer who often creates intimate portraits of outsiders, Maureen Drennan depicts the isolated landscape and lifestyle of cannabis cultivation in California for her project “Meet Me in the Green Glen.”
Roe Ethridge’s photographs cleverly skirt the terrain of stock imagery as they cover a wide array of visual tropes with a self-consciously elementary grammar. Sarah Beth with Pipe emanates the almost generic feel of a classic “Portrait of Woman Smoking Marijuana.”