This was the first UK retrospective of American artist Wallace Berman (1926 – 1976), considered by many to be the ‘father’ of Californian assemblage.
An enigmatic figure, Berman’s interests in the Kabbalah, music and poetry combined to make his art an intricate part of his everyday life. He was hugely influential on a group of artists and poets to emerge from the legacy of the Beat generation in the late 1950s and 1960s.
The exhibition included early drawings for Jazz record covers, his mail-art publication Semina containing poetry and images by Berman and his friends, and his signature Verifax collage works, made using a predecessor to the photocopier.
A special inclusion is Berman’s only surviving sculpture Homage to Herman Hess which featured in his first exhibition, prematurely closed by police. Shown alongside are his fragile rock boxes and photographs which he took throughout his life.
Berman’s influence on artists is far reaching. Peter Blake included his portrait on the cover of The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and he appeared, with a punning reference to his publication Semina, as a seed-sower in the film Easy Rider.