Aleph: California Beat Artist Wallace Berman’s Only Film

While I was running through the Getty Center’s flagship portion of the massive citywide ‘Pacific Standard Time‘ art exhibit, I was struck by just how great this Wallace Berman fellow really was. Known primarily as the ‘father’ of assemblage art, he was also a member of the Beat Movement. He made a single film which occupied much of his time through the 1960s and 70s. It’s less than eight minutes long and it’s a drop dead gorgeous thing to see. He’s one of those film artists interested in what I like to call the messy image. The film seems to have been dragged through ink and dirt. It’s been scratched, wrinkled, folded, cut, slashed and stained. Letters flash by like subliminal messages. Pop culture crashes into modern art. He films magazines, papers, radios, faces, hands, rock stars, body parts, buildings, streets and apparently just about everything he had lying around in his studio. This film is a quiet little reminder that crystal clear HD and super sharp focus are not anywhere near the concerns of some artists.

And here is California assemblage artist George Herms talking about Berman recently as part of the Pacific Standard Time series of exhibits:

Crosscurrents: Film About Pacific Standard Time Art Exhibits Focused on Los Angeles Art From 1945 – 1980

Pacific Standard Time is a massive overview of Los Angeles art from 1945 to 1980. At least sixty galleries and museums are taking part over the next few months. I have already been to the largest exhibits at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Getty Center. The whole thing is a lot of fun and I have discovered artists I never knew about before. There are magnificent things on display and the curators have also published big books to go along with each exhibit. I seriously recommend that you always get the books because they have far more information in them than the exhibits themselves. I view it as my own effort to compile a record of this unique regional art show.

You can find almost everything you need at the Pacific Standard Time web site.

This film was put together for the Getty Center’s flagship exhibit, Crosscurrents, which covers 1950 to 1970. It’s a very nice little documentary about some of the major art developments in Los Angeles.

Pacific Standard Time: Los Angeles Art From 1945 to 1980

Don’t let anyone ever tell you that it doesn’t matter where you are when you make art. It matters very much. You have to know who’s buried in the ground that you’re dancing on. You have to know what’s in the air. You have to know who walked where you are walking now. If you don’t know those things, you might as well be working via modem from an igloo in the antarctic. This Pacific Standard Time thing is a bunch of galleries in Southern California working under the general umbrella of the Getty Center to put on exhibits of post World War II through 1980 art by Southern California artists. Los Angeles is the only great American city that hasn’t been entirely bombed by corporations yet. New York has been a dead zone since 1980. I lived there for almost ten years. Every footstep taken in that city was like a death march for me. The oppression of mind that goes on in New York is akin to being trapped inside some sort of giant grinding machine that keeps on working even though all its parts are broken. Coming to Los Angeles was like seeing the horizon for the first time. The city opens out and spreads with a psychotically unhinged freedom and chaos that is the very essence of creativity. It is the perfect antidote to the black death of New York. This is apparently the first art exhibition of its kind ever. An entire region is presenting its art and imagination for all the world to see. There are going to be roughly sixty different shows happening over the six months of this thing.

Pacific Standard Time is a collaboration of more than sixty cultural institutions across Southern California, coming together for six months beginning in October 2011 to tell the story of the birth of the Los Angeles art scene and how it became a major new force in the art world. Each institution will make its own contribution to this grand-scale story of artistic innovation and social change, told through a multitude of simultaneous exhibitions and programs. Exploring and celebrating the significance of the crucial post-World War II years through the tumultuous period of the 1960s and 70s, Pacific Standard Time encompasses developments from L.A. Pop to post-minimalism; from modernist architecture and design to multi-media installations; from the films of the African American L.A. Rebellion to the feminist activities of the Woman’s Building; from ceramics to Chicano performance art; and from Japanese American design to the pioneering work of artists’ collectives. Initiated through $10 million in grants from the Getty Foundation, Pacific Standard Time involves cultural institutions of every size and character across Southern California, from Greater Los Angeles to San Diego and Santa Barbara to Palm Springs.