The Wallace Berman renaissance has been inching along in fits and starts, ever since art historian Merril Greene published the first serious consideration of his work in Artforum in 1978. That essay came two years after his untimely death in 1976, on the eve of Berman’s 50th birthday. For an artist whose influence has been seemingly more pervasive than his actual work, it couldn’t have come too soon. Christine McKenna curated the watershed Semina Culture show at the Santa Monica Museum of Art in 2005, tracing Berman’s far-reaching aesthetic by placing his work at the center of a constellation of pieces by his contemporaries.
The current exhibition at Pasadena’s Armory Center for the Arts is more Pacific Standard Time bounty. It further illuminates Berman’s often-enigmatic photo collages, postcards and constructions by joining them with Robert Heinecken’s photo and print manipulations. It’s a clever bit of juxtaposition by curators Claudia Bohn-Spector and Sam Mellon that illuminates two phantoms of Los Angeles art.