Wallace Berman was born in 1926 in Staten Island, New York. In the 1930s, his family moved to the Jewish district (Boyle Heights) in 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 the Jepson Art School and Chouinard Art School, but departed when he found the training too academic for his needs.
In 1949, while working in a factory finishing antique furniture, he began to make sculptures from unused 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. Moving between the two cities, Berman devoted himself to his mail art publication SEMINA, which contained a sampling of beat poetry and images selected by Berman.
In 1963, permanently settled in Topanga Canyon in the Los Angeles area, Berman began work on verifax collages (printed images, often from magazines and newspapers, mounted in collage fashion onto a flat surface, sometimes with solid bright areas of acrylic paint). He continued creating these works, as well as rock assemblages, until his death in 1976.
Further reading and reference:
ART AS A MUSCULAR PRINCIPLE, 10 Artists and San Francisco 1950-1965
Mount Holyoke College, 1975
ART IN LOS ANGELES: SEVENTEEN ARTISTS IN THE SIXTIES
Los Angeles: LACMA, 1981
ASSEMBLAGE IN CALIFORNIA: WORKS FROM THE LATE 50’S AND EARLY 60’S
Alhambra: Cunningham Press, 1968
DIFFERENT DRUMMERS, edited by Frank Gettings
Washington DC: Smithsonian Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, 1988
LA POP IN THE SIXTIES, edited by Anne Ayres
Newport Beach: Newport Harbor Art Museum, 1989
SAN FRANCISCO RENAISSANCE PHOTOGRAPHS OF THE ’50S AND ’60S, edited and with an introduction by Merril Greene
NY: Gotham Book Mart Gallery, 1975
SECRET EXHIBITION: SIX CALIFORNIA ARTISTS OF THE COLD WAR ERA, edited by Rebecca Solmit
San Francisco: City Lights, 1990
SUPPORT THE REVOLUTION, edited by Tosh Berman, Michael McClure, David Meltzer, Colin Gardner, Walter Hopps, Christopher Knight, Eduardo Lipschutz-Villa, Charles Brittin
Amsterdam: Institute of Contemporary Art, 1992
THIRD RAIL, Issue 9, edited by Uri Hertz
Los Angeles: Third Rail, 1988
UTOPIA AND DISSENT: ART, POETRY, AND POLITICS IN CALIFORNIA, by Richard Cándida Smith
Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995)