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Wallace Berman papers, 1907-1979, bulk 1955-1979

Berman, Wallace, 1926-1976

Mail artist, Assemblage artist

Collection Information

Size: 5 linear feet

Summary: Letters, notes from an interview of Berman, art work, issues of Berman's underground publication Semina, and one of "S.M.S.", printed materials, photographs and audio tapes provide an overview of the career of California assemblage artist and beat poet Wallace Berman, as well as the "beat" movement in California in the late 1950s through the 1970s. Approximately two thirds of the collection consists of Berman's library - mostly poetry - including many first editions, by writers of the beat movement.
Letters, 1957-1979, are from universities, publishers, museums and other business related contacts, and from artists, friends and writers of the beat movement, among them Robert Branaman, Jess (Collins), Jay DeFeo, Diane DiPrima, Bob Driscoll, Robert Duncan, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Hirschman, Ray Johnson, Larry Jordan, Michael McClure, David Meltzer, Henry Miller, Stuart Z. Perkoff, and John Wieners. Also found are ten letters written by Berman, 1957-1979.
Notes from an interview, 1967, consist of sentence fragments taken from a London interview of Berman by Sandrada. Art work, 1956-1976, consists of 11 collages and 9 drawings by Berman, and 8 photograms by Robert F. Heinecken.
The file on Berman's mail art magazine Semina, 1955-1967, contains original issues No. 1-2 and 4-8, and announcements from the Semina Art Gallery. Relating to his publication S.M.S. is issue No. 1 (1968).
Printed material, 1907-1976, includes clippings; exhibition announcements and catalogs; brochures; booklets; 2 scripts entitled, "The Beard," by Michael McClure and "The Yin and The Yang," by Don Sherman, Dennis Hopper, and Peter Fonda. Included in this series are Berman's library -74 books of mostly poetry, some illustrated by Berman, by Billy Al Bengston and Ed Ruscha, Robert Duncan, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Hirschman, Philip Lamantia, Michael McClure, David Meltzer, Henry Miller, Kenneth Patchen, Stuart Z. Perkoff, John Wieners, and others. Also found in the series "writings" are typescripts for a book, and of poetry by McClure, Meltzer, and Wieners.
Photographs, 1956-1976, are of Berman, his wife, and his colleagues George Herms, Patricia Jordan, Philip Lamantia, Michael McClure, and John Wieners. There are also photographs of the Poets' Parade, 1958, and of Berman's work "Wall Painting". Audio tapes, 1962-1965, consist of 3 sound recordings, on 12 reel-to-reel tapes, of poetry readings by Michael McClure, David Meltzer, and Kenneth Patchen. Tapes include 10 duplicates of an editioned poetry reading by McClure at the Lion House, Fleishacker zoo, San Francisco, California, recorded by Bruce Conner.

Biographical/Historical Note

Wallace Berman (1926-1976) was an assemblage artist and poet in Los Angeles and San Francisco, California. Born in Staten Island, N.Y., Berman moved to Los Angeles with his family in the 1930s. After being expelled from high school for gambling, he briefly attended the Jepson Art School and the Chouinard Art School. By the 1950s, he had become a full-time assemblage artist and produced a mail art publication Semina, which contained a sampling of beat poetry and images selected by Berman. In 1963, he permanently settled in Topanga Canyon near Los Angeles and created verifax collages and rock assemblages.


Donated 1991 by Tosh Berman, Berman's son.