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Wallace Berman (American, 1926-1976)
The Dennis Hopper Collection (Lots 1-242 and 526-572)
Wallace Berman (American, 1926-1976)


Wallace Berman (American, 1926-1976)
verifax collage
7¼ x 9¾ in. (18.4 x 24.8 cm.)
Executed in 1963.
Los Angeles, Otis Art Institute Gallery of Los Angeles, Wallace Berman Retrospective, 22 October-26 November 1978.
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art; Minneapolis, Walker Art Center; M.H. de Young Memorial Museum, San Francisco, Beat Culture and the New America: 1950-1965, November 1995-December 1996.
Austin, Austin Museum of Art; Tacoma Art Museum, The New Frontier: Art and Television, 1960-65, 1 September-26 November 2000, p. 38 (illustrated).
Paris, Centre National de la Cinématographie and Melbourne, Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Dennis Hopper and the New Hollywood, October 2008-April 2010, p. 50 (illustrated).

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Lot Essay

Wallace Berman was born in 1926 in Staten Island, New York. In the 1930s, his family moved to Los Angeles. After being expelled from high school for gambling in the early 1940s, Berman immersed himself in the growing West Coast jazz scene. During this period, he briefly attended two art schools, but departed when he found the training too academic to his liking.

In 1949, while working in a factory finishing antique furniture, he began to make sculptures from scraps and reject materials. By the early 1950s, Berman had become a full-time artist and an active figure in the Beat community in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Many art historians consider him to be the 'father' of the California Assemblage Movement. According to Dennis Hopper, he affected and influenced everybody seriously involved in the arts in Los Angeles in the 1950's: "If there was a guru, he was it, the high priest, the holy man, the rabbi."

Berman only had one public solo showing of his work in the U.S.A., in 1957 in the then newly founded Ferus gallery in Los Angeles. The exhibition was shut down by the police on the grounds of obscenity. Moving between the two cities, Berman devoted himself to his art publication SEMINA, which contained a sampling of beat poetry and images that he selected. SEMINA was a hand-made magazine published in a limited edition from 1955 to 1964. It was mostly handed out or mailed as a gift and not available for purchase.

In 1963, permanently settled in Topanga Canyon, Berman began work on his Verifax collages (printed images, often from magazines and newspapers, mounted in collage fashion). He continued creating these works until his death in 1976.

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