Exhibitions

Semina Culture: Wallace Berman & His Circle

Main Gallery Sep 17–Nov 26, 2005

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Semina Culture: Wallace Berman & His Circle
Sep 17–Nov 26, 2005

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Semina Culture: Wallace Berman and his Circle, 2005

A key artist of his generation, Wallace Berman (1938-1976) was an enigmatic, underground figure whose collages and assemblages articulate an important strand of dark mysticism in post-War American culture. Berman’s hand-printed, personally distributed literary journal, Semina (1955-1964) stands as an iconic document of its time. The first major museum exhibition to examine the significance of the charismatic Wallace Berman, Semina Culture: Wallace Berman & His Circle featured the complete loose-leaf run of Semina, as well as artworks, photographs, and publications by forty-nine artists that manifest the scope and interests of the new ”Semina Culture.” More than seventy photographic portraits from Berman’s archive were also shown for the first time, revealing the close-knit nature of this underground community.

These participants in an important emerging counterculture, the Beat movement of the 1950s and 1960s, pursued an alternative way of thinking about the purpose and formal nature of art, infusing their works with nostalgia, lyricism, feeling, and a sense of the ephemeral. They include Robert Alexander, John Altoon, Toni Basil, Paul Beattie, Ray and Bonnie Bremser, Charles Brittin, Joan Brown, Cameron, Bruce Conner, Jean Conner, Jay DeFeo, Diane DiPrima, Kirby Doyle, Bobby Driscoll, Robert Duncan, Joe Dunn, Llyn Foulkes, Loree Foxx, Ralph Gibson, Allen Ginsberg, Billy Gray, George Herms, Jack Hirschman, Dennis Hopper, Billy Jahrmarkt, Jess, Lawrence Jordan, Patricia Jordan, Bob Kaufman, Philip Lamantia, William Margolis, Michael McClure, Taylor Mead, David Meltzer, Henry Miller, Stuart Perkoff, John Reed, Arthur Richer, Rachel Rosenthal, Jack Smith, Dean Stockwell, Ben Talbert, Russel Tamblyn, Aya (Tarlow), Edmund Teske, Zack Walsh, Lew Welch, and John Wieners. For these iconoclasts, art was a joyful and creative expression, not a means to an artworld career. Their approach to the purpose and formal nature of art and culture existed on a vastly different track from the canonical traditions of abstract expressionism, minimalism, and postmodernism.

Guest-curated by Michael Duncan and Kristine McKenna, Semina Culture traveled to the Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art, Utah State University, Logan, Utah (January 10 – March 15, 2006); the Ulrich Museum of Art, Wichita State University, Wichita, Kansas (April 21 – July 9, 2006); the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley, California (October 17 – December 10, 2006); and The Grey Art Gallery, New York University, New York, New York (January 16 – March 31, 2007).