Wallace Berman is known for his photographic collages and his use of text in his artworks. Berman frequently used a Verifax copier (an early method of photocopying) to create his collages. Berman’s journal Semina, which ran from 1955 to 1964 and featured collage and poetry, was highly influential for many Beat artists. The Beat Generation, of which Berman was a significant member, were artists and writers that cultivated a culture of nonconformity during the post-war 1960s era.
Untitled (C3–Cosmic Burst) depicts the repeated image of a hand holding an AM/FM radio. What differs between each iteration of the photograph, however, is the pictures overlaid on the radio (incidentally, making the radio resemble today’s camera phones). The pictures vary, with some visual similarities between them and only a couple repeated images. One prominently displays a traditional Christian cross, another a church, and a third, a spider. Much of the imagery used are symbols associated with religion. For example, the image of a snake may call to mind the Biblical tale of the Garden of Eden, where the snake lures Eve into eating the forbidden apple, or the image near the center of two hands raised towards a cross, perhaps depicting an act of worship.
But not all of the images are Judeo-Christian or even religious. Other frames feature part of an Egyptian tomb mural, a missile, a runner, and a nude female body. Still, one might associate these images with notions of reverence and worship in that society appears to exalt war, athletics, and sex. The use of inverted grayscale in the artwork creates a melancholic tone and suggests Berman’s message may be critical in nature.
Artist: Wallace Berman
Title: Untitled (C3–Cosmic Burst)
Medium: Verifax collage
Dimension: 30 3/4 x 33 3/8 in. (78.11 x 84.77 cm)
Collection: The Buck Collection at the UCI Institute and Museum for California Art
Copyright: © The Estate of Wallace Berman and Kohn Gallery