Wallace Berman and various contributors
Semina (editions 1–9), 1955–64
Mixed media limited edition artist’s publication, dimensions variable
Special Collections and Archives, Utah State University Library,
Gift of the Marie Eccles Caine Foundation
WALLACE BERMAN & HIS CIRCLE
January 16 – March 31, 2007
Semina Culture examines the work of the quintessential West Coast visual artist of the Beat era, Wallace Berman (1926–1976), and the community of creative people who coalesced around him.
A catalyst who traveled through many different worlds, Berman is a crucial figure in the history of postwar California art. Anchoring this multimedia exhibition is a complete run of Semina—a hand-printed free-form loose-leaf art and poetry journal published in nine issues from 1955 to 1964—which served as a brilliant compendium of the most interesting artists and poets of the time, including Berman himself, William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Jess, Joan Brown, Robert Duncan, and John Altoon, among others.
In addition to Semina, which Berman published and personally distributed, the exhibition includes over fifty of Berman’s own photographs, recently printed from vintage negatives and shown for the first time, which shed light on America’s underground art community of the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s. Also featured are collages, paintings, and assemblages by 48 of Berman’s wide-ranging friends, artists, and collaborators, including Joan Brown, Bruce Conner, Jay DeFeo, Ralph Gibson, Dennis Hopper, Taylor Mead, Rachel Rosenthal, Jack Smith, Dean Stockwell, and Russel Tamblyn. Semina Culture conveys the era’s undeniable aura of hope, disaffection, and intense feeling—and reveals a fascinating and seldom-acknowledged backdrop to today’s youth and baby-boomer cultures.
Organized by the Santa Monica Museum of Art and co-curated by Michael Duncan and Kristine McKenna, the exhibition is accompanied by a lavishly illustrated catalogue featuring essays by the curators, along with reminiscences by Semina contributors and sympathizers. The presentation of Semina Culture at the Grey Art Gallery is made possible in part by the Abby Weed Grey Trust. Public programs are supported by the Grey’s Inter/National Council.