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.