On and Off the Wall 2013
George Herms: On and Off the Wall
September 21 - November 2, 2013
A work by George Herms may contain a well-worn basketball skin. Costume jewelry, dulled with age, still sparkles when affixed to a carefully chosen rusty can. As choreographed by the artist, wrapping paper, pill bottles, handles, and newspapers in French, English and Italian interact to produce complex even tender compositions. Within the rhythm of each and every object, Herms zeros in on the common denominator and harnesses each to other, creating a miraculous unison. Whether encased in boxes, pinned to the wall or suspended mid-air, in every decade of his prodigious career, the works sing.In the mid-50’s, after a brief stint studying engineering at Berkeley, Herms crossed paths with assemblage artist Wallace Berman. An introduction to the Beat Poets and their freewheeling worldview followed. Herms soon became associated with the influential Southern-Cal art group Semina, producing “found-object poems,” sculpture/portraits built of re-functioned objects and books. By 1961, his work was included in MOMA’s The Art of Assemblage (The Poet) and another work (The Librarian) was placed at the Whitney in 1962 in Fifty California Artists.
Through the years, Herms has shown work nationally and internationally (he was prominently featured in the Getty’s PST initiative), changed venues and even mediums (his jazz opera, The Artist’s Life, premiered at REDCAT in 2011). However, his allegiance to the making of things has never wavered. He remains the real deal: an artist’s artist complete with a poet’s eye and a musician’s heart.
This exhibition marks the artist’s initial presentation with the gallery.
"Art is Love is God" has long been a mantra for George Herms, now 79, an original Beat artist of the ‘50s, running mate to artist Wallace Berman, poet, hipster, lover of jazz and women, operating at edges of the contemporary art world though always regarded as essential to its beating heart.
Despite his talent -- he has received numerous grants and awards -- Herms has remained something of the perpetual bridesmaid, never the bride, never the one to score the big bucks yet never bitter, just a remarkably generous and amusing soul. For decades, he has found beauty in cast-offs, the rusted, deteriorated fragments of furniture, machinery, books, lumber. His collages have been detailed, refined and small in scale. Two new shows in West Hollywood, at Louis Stern Fine Arts and at OHWOW Gallery, offer breathtaking proof that old dogs can learn new tricks and refine some of their old ones.
The most surprising is Emergio at OHWOW, on view through October 26, where the walls are hung with big, bright collages that seem at first to be a complete contrast to his small, highly refined pieces. The clippings from women's fashion magazines -- flowers, jewelry, butterfly wings -- are enlarged to six feet and fitted together by pattern and color to obviate their source material. They are dynamic and completely unexpected as the oval repetitions of nature and culture collide and cuddle. As context, the show includes a number of Herms' earlier sculptures as well as Scratch (2013), a towering nine foot tall fantasy composed of a pair of old chairs, one curvy and white, the other rusted metal and perforated with holes, draped in melted plastic CD's, bits of bottles and oddments.
George Herms: On and Off the Wall is a rough survey, beginning with Geo Geo Graphic from 1964 to work from the present. In terms of newest work, his interest in the melted CD's is manifest here as various hanging sculptures from 2012 called Swarm. The clusters of glistening, twisted plastic discs are bound together like the hives of alien creatures yet they shimmer with reflected light like chandeliers. Inexplicable Urge (2012) incorporates a crumpled metallic high-heel and bits of gold jewelry on a scrap-wood armature while Joe Goode Time (2009) is just that, part of watch burned in the fire that destroyed most of that artist's studio.
Many of the works in the show are stamped with the capital letters L-O-V-E on the four corners. Herms stays true to himself even as he pushes into future possibilities. Oh George, we hardly knew ye. For more information, go to oh-wow.com orlouissternfinearts.com.
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