Wallace Berman

Untitled 112, 1964-76, single negative photographic image, 6-1/2"x6-1/2" by Wallace Berman

Wallace Berman: was born on Staten Island, New York in 1926. In the 1930s his family moved to Los Angeles. In the early 1940s he became involved in the West Coast jazz scene. He attended classes at Jepson Art Institute and Chouinard Art Institute in the 1940s. Then for a few years he worked in a furniture factory. It was there that he began creating sculptures from wood scraps. This led to him becoming a full time artist by the early 1950s and involved in the Beat Movement. He moved from Los Angeles to San Francisco in late 1957 where he mostly focused on his magazine Semina, which consisted of collages mixed with poetry by writers Michael McClure, Philip Lamantia, David Meltzer, Charles Bukowski, William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Jean Cocteau, and himself, which he published under the pseudonym Pantale Xantos. In 1965 he moved to Topanga Canyon and started creating his series of Verifax Collages. Director Dennis Hopper, a collector of his work, gave him a small role in his 1968 film “Easy Rider.” He produced work until his sudden death in a car accident caused by a drunk driver in 1976. His involvement with the jazz scene allowed him opportunities to work with jazz musicians, creating bebop album covers for Charlie Parker. His likeness appears in the second row of the Beatles’ 1967 “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album cover. The portrait is from a photograph taken by Dean Stockwell. It is directly above John Lennon, two rows up, next to Tony Curtis. In 1992, his papers were donated to the Archives of American Art by his son, Tosh Berman.