- 1976) was an
American West Coast visual /assemblage artist.
Wallace Berman was born in
Staten Island, New York and moved with his family to
California in 1930. He was expelled from high school for gambling, and
became involved in the world of jazz. He enrolled in and attended the
Jepson Art School and Chouinard but did not complete studies there.
Instead of pursuing a formal art 'career' he worked in a factory finishing
antique furniture. This work gave him the opportunity to salvage reject
materials and scraps which he used to make sculptures. He began a mail art
publication called SEMINA The format was a letterpress text printed
on an assemblage of colored paper, photos, and essentially found material.
Antonin Artaud, Charles Brittin,
William S. Burroughs,
Allen Ginsberg, Marion Grogan,
Walter Hopps, Larry Jordan,
David Meltzer, Stuart Perkoff, and John Weiners.
He exhibited pieces in the
Ferus Gallery in 1957, became
part of the
beat communities in Los Angeles and in San Francisco, and started the
Semina Art Gallery in Larkspur, CA in 1960. He made
his first and only film,
Aleph, from 1956-1966.
Berman did not give the film a title, referring to it just as 'my film' or
'my movie' and never showed it to large audiences, preferring to screen it
on his studio wall on a one-to-one basis. The title Aleph was given
to the work by Berman's son, Tosh, after the artist's death.
He used verifax collages
in his work, allowing for creation of serial and multiple images. From
Ed Ruscha: "There were a lot of artists then that were doing serial
imagery in that way, including
Llyn Foulkes and
Andy Warhol himself, of course, who really popularized it. I had done
some things like that. It came about at a time where it had completely
reached its time. It was inevitable, It's like a genealogy. I think it was
about Wally- and even Andy of course, who came out of the commercial world
- seeing not paintings in museums but more popular imagery." This
development in the art world seems directly related to the growth of mass
production, consumption, and mass disposal that the US embraced in the
He was killed in an automoble crash with a drunk driver in
Topanga Canyon in 1976.