Wallace Berman’s ALEPH

Published on January 23rd, 2013

berman

Wallace Berman was born in Staten Island, New York in 1926. While he was still a child, he correctly predicted that he would die on his 50th birthday. He was hit by a car in 1976.

During those five decades, Berman became a pioneering assemblage artist as well as one of the cornerstones of the post WWII California art scene. Berman became associated with the Beats and his self-published magazine Semina combined his own collage imagery with writing by luminaries like Michael McClure, Philip Lamantia, David Meltzer, Charles Bukowski, William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Jean Cocteau. In addition to his groundbreaking, multimedia assemblages, Berman made the short film Aleph. The artist’s only experiment with moving pictures,Aleph reveals both Berman’s love of collage as well as his interest in the Kabbalah.

Here is what www.jewishmuseum.org has to say about the film:

Aleph is an artist’s meditation on life, death, mysticism, politics, and pop culture. In an eight-minute loop of film, Wallace Berman uses Hebrew letters to frame a hypnotic, rapid-fire montage that captures the go-go energy of the 1960s. Aleph includes stills of collages created using a Verifax machine, Eastman Kodak’s precursor to the photocopier. These collages depict a hand-held radio that seems to broadcast or receive popular and esoteric icons. Signs, symbols, and diverse mass-media images (e.g., Flash Gordon, John F. Kennedy, Mick Jagger) flow like a deck of tarot cards, infinitely shuffled in order that the viewer may construct his or her own set of personal interpretations. The transistor radio, the most ubiquitous portable form of mass communication in the 1960s, exemplifies the democratic potential of electronic culture and serves as a metaphor for Jewish mysticism. The Hebrew term kabbalah translates as “reception” for knowledge, enlightenment, and divinity.

YouTube Preview Image

Check out Joe Nolan’s Insomnia to find out more about another West Coast artist with an eye for the surreal.

Stay awake!

J


About Joe Nolan

Joe Nolan is a critic, columnist, singer/songwriter and sometime NPR contributor. He can be heard every week on SittingNow's CCN podcast. Joe thinks coffee is a sacrament. Joe thinks surreal is the new black.

Related Posts

  • William Burroughs’ Blasted ArtWilliam Burroughs’ Blasted Art As many readers of these here illuminated letters surely know, the great author/Beat ghost/junky/exterminator William S. Burroughs also added the title of "painter" to his resume before his dea...
  • Psychedelic Super SquadPsychedelic Super Squad The Avengers, the Justice League, the X-Men, the Village People — everybody loves an all-star team. We can't imagine a world without Reed, Susan, Johnny and Ben in cahoots, and it should ...
  • Michael McClure Meanders The Maze Michael McClure Meanders The Maze The San Francisco Bay Area Television Archive is full of gold. There is tons of material here from the '60's including lots of great footage of the Black Panthers and plenty of Haight Street hi...
  • Lions Hate PoetryLions Hate Poetry I've written about 2nd generation Beat poet Michael McClure on this here slate of light before. McClure joined up with Ginsberg and Kerouac when the New Yorkers made their way to San Francisco,...
  • RE/Searching for GysinRE/Searching for Gysin RE/Search Publishing was founded in 1980 by V. Vale and Andrea Juno. According to the Wiki, the San Fransisco-based company was originally funded by $100 they were given by Allen Ginsberg and W...

Reply

You spam, you die.