Ed Bereal is an African-American artist best known for his Assemblage art and for his participation in exhibitions and performances that addressed political issues and racial stereotypes. He was a founding member of the 1960s radical street theater group Bodacious Buggerrilla. Bereal was educated at the Chouinard Art Institute (1959-62) and studied privately under John Altoon and Peter Voulkos. This piece, Focke-Wulf FW 109, is a statement on war and racism. The title is a reference to the Focke-Wulf FW 190 and the Messerschmitt Bf 109, which together were the backbone of the Nazi air force during WWII, while the fragmented metal construction of this assemblage suggests the aircrafts’ wreckage and the collapse of the Nazi party.
The swastika was originally a symbol of divinity and spirituality in Indian and East Asian religions and of wishes for success and good luck in the Western World, often featured in Native American jewelry and textiles. The Nazis appropriated and exploited the swastika, using it to symbolize a historically rooted, racially pure Aryan state. In this work, Bereal re-appropriates the swastika—flipping it backwards from how it appears on Nazi insignia to recall its original meanings, which amplifies this mixed media artwork’s resemblance to a human heart. When this work was first exhibited in 1961, at one of the first racially integrated exhibitions, War Babies at the Huysman Gallery in Los Angeles, Focke-Wulf FW 109 actually dripped and reeked of oil, compounding its shock value and heightening its likeness to aircraft debris or a bleeding heart.
Artist: Ed Bereal
Title: Focke-Wulf FW 109
Medium: Mixed-media assemblage
Dimension: 21 1/4 x 12 x 6 in. (53.98 x 30.48 x 15.24 cm)
Collection: The Buck Collection at the UCI Institute and Museum for California Art
Copyright: © Ed Bereal 10-1-18