Wallace Berman American

Not on view

Berman used the Verifax machine, an early Kodak precursor to the photocopier, to produce a series of collages, his best-known body of work. Here, the central component is the image of a hand holding a transistor radio, which was taken from an advertisement. On the radio’s blank surface, Berman superimposed other mass-media images, such as a rabbit’s foot and a stopwatch. Although each image can be interpreted symbolically on its own, collectively, they form a parade of cultural tropes, a portrait of whatever was dominating the artist’s visual field. Berman collapsed several forms of communication technology—a photocopy, a radio, and printed imagery—into an unsettling landscape of static noise, yet the addition of the small painted Hebrew letters, visual signifiers of Berman’s dedication to the mystical Kabbalah, suggests that this landscape is not completely devoid of spiritual belief.

Untitled, Wallace Berman (American, Staten Island, New York 1926–1976 Topanga Canyon, California), Verifax collage

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