Smokin' Tabs

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Acid Art That's Finger Trippin' Good

by Piers Townley, article appeared in the British magazine, 'Loaded'

Imagine you'd just spent a week's food money on a bag of acid tabs in an effort to find out what all the fuss is about. Now, which one would it be? Would you opt for dropping a hit of Jesus on the cross? Beavis and Butthead? Felix the cat? Would you connect with the cosmos via the beaming psychedelic head of Hendrix or a New Age Celtic symbol? You'd have to be a seasoned tripper to relish the thought of a dose of skull and crossbones. The last thing you'd want to deal with in the 'real' world, if this was your first time, is the face of death.

Mark McCloud, an Argentinian-born 44 year old ex-professor of art, on the other hand, loves them all. For the last 27 years he's been collecting blotter acid designs; 250 mounted sheets for exhibitions and another 50 ready for his forthcoming book about them all. It all started after he fell out of a fourth- storey window aged 17, having what he calls a 'near death experience.'

He's held his own with Timothy Leary, dropped the best acid with Owsley Stanely III (60's LSD pioneer) when it was still legal, and now wants to show the fruits of his hobby to the world. That is, if the FBI don't kill him first. A well developed paranoid persecution complex has developed alongside his collector mania. And with good reason. The stuff he collects, if dipped , is a class -A drug with tough prison sentences for possession. After his acquittal from an LSD conspiracy charge in 1992, the Feds tried a different approach.


"An Interpol agent, a Welch gentleman, came to me with fake blotter paper made at great expense by Scotland Yard. They were trying to trap me. Said they wanted to raise money for a friend of mine on a similiar charge. I could see through them straight away. When you do what I do you learn to be careful. They wanted the original crystal that's used to make the final dipped blotters. They were disappointed."
Understandably he remains guarded about his life, convinced the authorities want him dead. This sort of hobby tends to make certain people pay attention.

" The truth of the matter is that the FBI and the CIA want to control the good LSD for the agents," he claims. "They think they have the right to the telepathy it can bring. There's a big war over telepathy going on in a great deal of political and covert communities. LSD has featured in mostÝ of these programmes. The best way to attackÝ this one is artistically. Which is what I'm doing."

Just about anything from popular culture, religion and TV has been represented in acid art. " There's a still a whole lot of English blotter that I have to nail. After reading some Interpol reports I'm missing Captain Yin Yang and Batman. Though I finally got my hands on a Gorby sheet."

McCloud also collects windowpane 'sculptures' : pharmaceutical gel impregnated with LSD in pyramids and spheres. It used to be popular back at the
time your folks were necking with each other on their parents' sofas.

According to Mark, acid has never been as good as when he was a youngster.

Most of the art work in the collection is in the final pre-dipped perforated form-8 1/2 inches by 11 inches tall divided into 1000 quarter inch squares. Recent auctions of the designs ( neutralized of course) sold for over $1500.00 pounds. The usual suspects have helped him collect these little pieces of modern culture, including Timothy Leary, who noted that, " Signing blotter art, I feel like the Pope signing communion wafers."

Why is, or was, acid so popular for McCloud? " It's more important than most people realise. We tend to forget how much of a hold it used to have. It's responsible for the modern computer. IBM would never have developed it without LSD. They'd reached a sticking point, but rumour has it that as soon as their engineers tripped, they made a huge leap in development! There's something similar between tripping and the way software's been developed."
Mark admits that the days of naked hippies with flowers stuck in their arses banging on about diamonds in the sky won't come again. " But," he says, " now alot more people give blotter art the respect it deserves as a revolutionary art form and part of our subculture.
What are his personal favorites?
"The most desirable ones include Timothy Leary and Albert Hoffman signed prints, and the Alice in Wonderland design. It really is a beautiful piece, double sided and highly detailed."
Is there one design that pisses off the authorities more than most? " Definitely the seal of the FBI. That really got their backs up!

It looks like any old badge on a red background until you get up close. There's nothing like winding up the people who don't like you."
Mark McCloud says he'll have, like, a book out sometime this year. But hey man, what does 'time' really mean?

For more on Acid Art visit A Virtual Rock Gallery