Wallace Berman – Photo of the artist, 1964 – Image via Dennis Hopper

Wallace Berman/ Wallace Berman

United States 1926 - 1976

Assemblage Art

Wallace Berman
Wallace Berman
Male
United States
1926

Often introduced as the father of assemblage, Wallace Berman was an American visual artist regarded as a crucial, but often overlooked figure in the Post-World War II California scene. Besides being a successful visual artist, Wallace was also an active member of the American jazz scene, which allowed him opportunities to work with many popular musicians, most of whom wanted Berman to create their album covers. He was heavily influenced by the concepts of Dada and Surrealism, as well as Kabbalah, a mysterious art movement with its roots in Jewish tradition. Due to his conflicting nature when dealing with the public opinions, Berman’s work is often disregarded by many art historians who put value on more formal visuals than the one Wallace was interested into making.

Wallace Berman loved visiting the Kohn gallery
Wallace Berman – Untitled, 1964 – Image via uncrated.com

Why Berman Selected Art

Wallace Berman was born in Staten Island, New York, during the year of 1926. When he was about the age of four, his family moved to Boyle Heights, ending up at a diametrically opposite location of the Big Apple. Berman was discharged from high school for gambling in the early 1940s and eventually became associated with the West Coast jazz scene that was redefining many norms of the time – Wallace actually wrote a song with Jimmy Witherspoon in his time. He did manage to start attending classes at Jepson Art Institute and Chouinard Art Institute, whilst he worked in a furniture factory for extra cash. It was at this wood factory where he began creating sculptures, mostly from leftovers and scraps – this led to him becoming an artist by the early 1950s. In the year of 1957, Berman moved from Los Angeles to San Francisco, getting himself involved with the magazine Semina which consisted of poetry, photographs, texts, drawings and images assembled exclusively by Wallace. Around the year of 1957, Berman held his first exhibition at the newly opened Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles. In 1961, he came back to L.A. and started creating his series of Verifax Collages in 1963 or 1964. This project was based on photocopies of Kodak images from magazines and newspapers mounted onto a flat surface in a collage fashion with details made from acrylic paint. This series was strongly influenced by the aforementioned Kabbalah – Breman’s fascination with this Jewish visual form is also evident in his later inscriptions in-situ in Hebrew letters and his only film, Aleph, a silent movie that explores topics of life, death, politics and pop culture. Eventually, Wallace started to stay clear of gallery spaces and focused on private series and projects, as well as his favorite magazine Semina, claiming that good public exhibitions of arts are too restrictive and censured for modern times. Semina was being published until the year of 1964, after which Wallace lost interest and wanted new challenges.

Mostly publishing his untitled artworks through the magazine Semina until the year of 1964, Wallace Berman kept an extremely low profile

Not many were able to put their untitled collage works in gallery, but Kohn Card Charles Kohn changed that in 2016
Wallace Berman – Semina 4, ca. 1959 – Image via exilebooks.com

Not Interested in Exhibitions or Sponsored Customers

Wallace Berman was highly active and produced many artworks until the fatal year of 1976 when he died in a car accident caused by a drunk driver. An interesting legend surrounds Berman’s name to this day. Allegedly, he told his mother as a child that he would die on his 50th birthday – and he really did die on February 18, 1976. Ending his life with a terrifyingly mystical event, Berman’s career ended the same way it went down for the most of its duration – quick, unique and explosive. Since Walalce mostly spread his art with friends and close associates, not many of his works are as well documented and treated like the untitled Verifax works, which only contributes to the lack of appreciation for Berman’s art.

Featured image: Wallace Berman – Photo of Berman, 1964 – Image via Dennis Hopper
All images used for illustrative purposes only.

YearExhibition TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2016Wallace Berman - American AlephKohn Gallery, Los Angeles, CASolo
2015Lost in the FloodGalerie Frank Elbaz, ParisGroup
2015Museum of StonesThe Noguchi Museum, New York City, NYGroup
2014An Opening of the Field: Jess, Robert Duncan, and Their CirclePasadena Museum of California Art- PMCA, Pasadena, CAGroup
2014Without Volition under LanguageJoe Sheftel Gallery, New York City, NYGroup
2013Sight / Vision : The Urban MilieuGallery Paule Anglim, San Francisco, CAGroup
201372 Degrees: LA Art from the CollectionWilliams College Museum of Art, Williamstown, MAGroup
2012Into The Mystic Michael Kohn Gallery, Los Angeles, USAGroup
2012Letters From Los Angeles Jack Rutberg Fine Arts, Los Angeles, USAGroup
2012Pacific Standard Time: Kunst in Los Angeles 1950–1980 Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin, GermanyGroup
2012The Postwar Era: From the Collection, 1945-1980 Laguna Art Museum, Laguna Beach, USAGroup
2012L.A. Raw: Abject Expressionism in Los Angeles 1945 - 1980 From Rico Lebrun to Paul McCarthy, Pasadena Museum of California Art, Pasadena, USAGroup
2011Lost & Found,abstracting Los Angeles 1945 - 1980 Robert Berman Gallery, Santa Monica, USAGroup
201146 N. Los Robles: A History of the Pasadena Art Museum Pacific Asia Museum, Pasadena, USAGroup
2011Speaking in Tongues: Wallace Berman and Robert Heinecken, 1961-1976 Armory Center for the Arts, Pasadena, USAGroup
2011L.A. Style: Printmaking at Gemini G.E.L, 1966-1976 Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, USAGroup
2011Distant Star kurimanzutto, Mexico City, MexicoGroup
2011Venice in Venice,Nyehaus, New York, USAGroup
2010Wallace Berman: Verifax Anne Mosseri-Marlio Galerie, Zurich, SwitzerlandSolo
2009In Numbers: Serial Publications by Artists X-Initiative, New York, USAGroup
2009MOCA’s First Thirty Years Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, USAGroup
20091968. Die Grosse Unschuld Kunsthalle Bielefeld, Bielefeld, GermanyGroup
2009Hot Spots: Milano-Torino Los Angeles, Rio de Janeiro, Kunsthaus Zürich, Zürich, SwitzerlandGroup
2009Time & Place: Los Angeles, 1958-1968 Kunsthaus Zürich, SwitzerlandGroup
2008Time & Place: Los Angeles, 1958-1968 Moderna Museet, Stockholm, SwedenGroup
2008All is personal: the Art of Wallace Berman Camden Arts Centre, London, EnglandSolo
2007UntitledMichael Kohn Gallery, Los Angeles, USASolo
2007PioneersCCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, San Francisco, USAGroup
2007Semina Culture; Wallace Berman and his Circle Grey Art Gallery NYU, New York, USAGroup
2006Los Angeles 1955-1965 Centre Pompidou, Paris, FranceGroup
2006Radical Software: Art, Technology, and the Bay Area Underground CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, San Francisco, USAGroup
2006Semina Culture: Wallace Berman and His Circle Ulrich Museum of Art, Wichita, USAGroup
2006California Modern Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, USAGroup
2006Semina Culture Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley, USASolo
2005Aleph, A Film by Wallace Berman The Jewish Museum of New York, New York, USASolo
2005Wallace Berman Patricia Faure Gallery, Los Angeles, USASolo
2005Looking at Words Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York, USAGroup
2005Semina Culture: Wallace Berman & His Circle Santa Monica Museum Of Art, Santa Monica, USAGroup
2005Tony DeLap & Wallace Berman Patricia Faure Gallery, Santa Monica, USAGroup
2005Tony DeLap & Wallace Berman Patricia Faure Gallery, Santa Monica, USAGroup
2004Subway Series: The New York Yankees and the American Dream Bronx Museum of the Arts, New York, USAGroup
2004Evidence of Impact: Art and Photography 1963–1978 Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, USAGroup
2004Collage Bloomberg Space, London, EnglandGroup
2003Some Assembly Required: Collage Culture in Post-War America Polk Museum of Art, Lakeland, USAGroup
2002Ferus Gagosian Gallery, New York, USAGroup
2000Wallace Berman Musee d'art moderne et contemporain, Geneva, SwitzerlandGroup
2000The New Frontier: Art and Television, 1960-65 Austin Museum of Art, Austin, USAGroup
1999Wallace Berman and Jeff Koons, Allan McCollum, Al Ruppersberg, Andy Warhol, Nicole Klagsbrun New York, USAGroup
1999The American Century: Art and Culture, 1950-2000 Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, USAGroup
1999Recent Paintings Galerie Wittenbrink, Munich, GermanyGroup
1999Coming to Life: The Figure in American Art 1955 – 1965 Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle, USAGroup
1999Altered States Charles Cowles Gallery, New York, USAGroup
1999Wallace Berman, Kenneth Goldsmith, Al Ruppersberg, Gorney, Bravin, and Lee New York, USAGroup
1999Sunshine and Noir: Art in Los Angeles 1960- 1997 Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek, DenmarkGroup
1999an accumulation of supple solids… Littlejohn Contemporary, NewYork, USAGroup
1997Wallace Berman: 1926-1976 L.A. Louver, Venice, USAGroup
1996Beat Culture and the New America, 1950-1965 Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, USA, Group
1994Worlds in a BoxSainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Norwich, University Of East Anglia, EnglandGroup
1994Collage Brian Gross Fine Art, San Francisco, USAGroup
1993Sermons, Ravings and Reminiscences on the Influence of a Truly Seminal Artist, Wallace Berman Gallery Paule Anglim, San Francisco, USAGroup
1993Wallace Berman,Collages Barry Whistler Gallery, Dallas, USAGroup
1993Wallace Berman Institute of Contemporary Art, Amsterdam, The NetherlandsGroup
1990Wallace Berman Louver Gallery, New York, USAGroup
1988The Art of George Herms and Wallace Berman Herron Gallery, Indianapolis, USAGroup
1988Wallace Berman: Works from the Estate L.A. Louver, Venice, USAGroup
1982UntitledCharles Cowles Gallery, New York, USAGroup
1979UntitledL.A. Louver, Venice, USAGroup
1978Wallace Berman Retrospective Otis Art Institute, Los Angeles, USA; Group
1977UntitledTimothea Stewart Gallery, Los Angeles, USAGroup
1974UntitledGemini G.E.L., Los Angeles, USAGroup
1973UntitledThe Mermaid Tavern, Topanga, USAGroup
1968UntitledLos Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, USA, traveled to the Jewish Museum, New York, USAGroup
1967UntitledTopanga Community House, Topanga, USAGroup
1965UntitledBeverly Glen, Los Angeles, USAGroup
1957UntitledFerus Gallery, Los Angeles, USAGroup