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Wallace Berman papers

Berman, Wallace, 1926-1976  Search this
Bengston, Billy Al  Search this
DeFeo, Jay, 1929-1989  Search this
Di Prima, Diane  Search this
Duncan, Robert Edward, 1919-  Search this
Fonda, Peter, 1940-  Search this
Ginsberg, Allen, 1926-  Search this
Heinecken, Robert, 1931-  Search this
Herms, George, 1935-  Search this
Hirschman, Jack, 1933-  Search this
Hopper, Dennis, 1936-  Search this
Jess, 1923-  Search this
Johnson, Ray, 1927-  Search this
Jordan, Patricia M., 1937-1989  Search this
Lamantia, Philip, 1927-  Search this
McClure, Michael  Search this
Meltzer, David  Search this
Miller, Henry, 1891-  Search this
Patchen, Kenneth, 1911-1972  Search this
Perkoff, Stuart Z.  Search this
Ruscha, Edward  Search this
Sherman, Donald  Search this
Wieners, John, 1934-  Search this
5 Linear feet
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Sound recordings
bulk 1955-1979
The Wallace Berman papers date from 1907 to 1979 (bulk 1955-1979). The collection measures 5 linear feet and presents a cursory overview of Berman's career as an assemblage artist and poet. The collection contains business correspondence, letters from other artists and writers of the Beat movement, writings by others, scattered artwork by Berman, photographs by Robert F. Heinecken, and sound recordings of poetry readings.
Scope and Content Note:
The Wallace Berman papers, 1907-1979 (bulk 1955-1979), measure 5 linear feet and present a cursory overview of Berman's career as an assemblage artist and poet. The collection is valuable not only for its documentation of the work of Wallace Berman, but for its documentation of the California beat movement of the late 1950s through the early 1970s.

Found are numerous letters, writings, poems, and other published material which portray the thoughts, attitudes, and trends popular in a prominent underground culture which eventually led to radical changes in America and American art. The collection contains business correspondence, letters from other artists and writers of the beat movement, writings by others, scattered artwork by Berman, and photographs by Robert F. Heinecken. In addition, the collection contains files for Berman's mail art publications Semina and S.M.S. Also of note is the large volume of printed material (2.7 feet), much of it in the form of books and other published material. Sound recordings include poets Michael McClure, Kenneth Patchen, David Melzer, and another unidentified writer performing their work.
The collection is arranged into nine series which generally reflect material type.

With the exception of the letters in Series 1, each series is arranged chronologically. The original arrangement of the letters has been maintained, with a chronological arrangement of miscellaneous business letters and an alphabetical arrangement of the letters from Berman's more prominent colleagues.

Series 1: Letters, 1957-1979, undated (box 1, 0.5 linear feet)

Series 2: Notes from Interview, 1967 (box 1, 1 folder)

Series 3: Writings by Others, 1972, undated (box 1, 6 folders)

Series 4: Artwork, 1956-1976 (box 1, 4 folders)

Series 5: Semina, 1955-1967 (boxes 1-2, 26 folders)

Series 6: S. M. S., 1968 (box 2, 1 folders)

Series 7: Printed Material, 1907-1976 (boxes 2-5, 2.7 linear feet)

Series 8: Photographs, 1956-1976 (box 5, 6 folders)

Series 9: Sound Recordings, 1962-1965 (box 5, 6 folders)
Biographical Note:
Wallace Berman was born in 1926 in Staten Island, New York. In the 1930s, his family moved to the Jewish district 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.
The Wallace Berman papers were donated by Tosh Berman, Wallace Berman's son, in 1992.
The collection is open for research. Patrons must use microfilm copy. Use of audiovisual recordings with no duplicate access copy requires advance notice.
The Archives of American Art makes its archival collections available for non-commercial, educational and personal use unless restricted by copyright and/or donor restrictions, including but not limited to access and publication restrictions. AAA makes no representations concerning such rights and restrictions and it is the user's responsibility to determine whether rights or restrictions exist and to obtain any necessary permission to access, use, reproduce and publish the collections. Please refer to the Smithsonian's Terms of Use for additional information.
Assemblage artists  Search this
Works of art  Search this
Poets  Search this
Collage  Search this
Art -- California -- San Francisco Bay Area  Search this
Assemblage (Art)  Search this
Beat generation  Search this
Photography, Artistic  Search this
Sound recordings
Wallace Berman papers, 1907-1979 (bulk 1955-1979). Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
See more items in:
Wallace Berman papers
Archival Repository:
Archives of American Art
Online Media:

A Tribute to Woody Guthrie [sound recording]

Guthrie, Woody 1912-1967  Search this
Guthrie, Arlo  Search this
Geer, Will  Search this
Ryan, Robert 1913-1973  Search this
Dylan, Bob 1941-  Search this
Collins, Judy 1939-  Search this
Seeger, Pete 1919-2014  Search this
Havens, Richie  Search this
Paxton, Tom 1937-  Search this
Baez, Joan  Search this
Fonda, Peter 1940-  Search this
McDonald, Joe 1942-  Search this
Odetta 1930-2008  Search this
Robinson, Earl 1910-1991  Search this
Elliott, Jack 1931-  Search this
Physical description:
1 sound cassette : analog
Musical sound recordings
United States
Gospel music  Search this
Topical songs  Search this
Folksong revival  Search this
Folk songs  Search this
Spoken word  Search this
Music  Search this
Guitar  Search this
Local number:
Restrictions & Rights:
Restrictions on access. No duplication allowed listening and viewing for research purposes only
Data Source:
Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections

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