Wallace Berman’s Underground

  • Rio Reel (ca.1966) by Russ Tamblyn
  • First Film (ca.1965) by Russ Tamblyn

    December 3, 2011, 8:00pm
    Armory Center for the Arts, 145 North Raymond Avenue Pasadena, CA 91103

    At the Armory Center for the Arts, 626.449.0139

    Map to the Armory: http://www.armoryarts.org/contact-us/map-to-armory/

    Info: www.lafilmforum.org and alternativeprojections.com

    Tickets: $10 general, $5 students (with ID) & seniors; free for Filmforum and Armory Center members, via Brown Paper Tickets at:

    http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/211197

    In person: Toni Basil, Tosh Berman, George Herms, Russ Tamblyn (schedules permitting)

    In the mid-1960’s, Wallace Berman inspired and communed with a close-knit circle of actors and artists, who screened their underground films domestically among a group of Topanga Canyon bohemians.  These films were influenced by Berman’s spiritualist and radically amateur concepts of art, that nevertheless thrived in the intersection among art, Hollywood, and the institutions of the semi-commercial underground.  Among this expanded circle in Topanga were Dennis Hopper, Russ Tamblyn, Toni Basil, Dean Stockwell, George Herms, Bruce Conner, and Robert Alexander.

    The evening will include several films made by the artists in this community, along with a conversation among the guests, and perhaps a performance.

    Curated by Rani Singh and David E. James

    This screening is in conjunction with the Armory’s exhibition

    Speaking in Tongues: The Art of Wallace Berman and Robert Heinecken, 1961-1976, which will be open that evening before the screening.  Come early to check out the wonderful exhibit!

    Screening (Program subject to change)

    Aleph, by Wallace Berman (1956-66, 6 min., 16mm, color, silent)

    "This film took a decade to make and is the only true envisionment of the sixties I know." - Stan Brakhage

    “…It is a dense collage of images drawn from disparate sources including his own works; newspaper and magazine illustrations often animated by the camera’s staccato movement over them; images from his own artwork, especially that of the single-image Verifax collages, including one of Flash Gordon that Berman titled “Portrait of Kenneth Anger”, home-movie footage of himself, his family and friends, and other artists, including Stockwell and Tamblyn; and trips to movies to see It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World and The T.A.M.I. Show, where Berman shot footage of the Rolling Stones and James Brown in concert.  Almost all of the shots are very brief, often only a few frames, and the whole is further denatured by painting and scratching  and by pverprinting, and it is punctuated by images of Kabalistic  letters….” – David E. James, The Most Typical Avant-Garde, p. 278


    Breakaway, by Bruce Conner (1966, 5 min., 16mm, color, sound)

    Music by Ed Cobb. Dance and vocal by Toni Basil

    "The camera captures her movements in gestural, expressive light smears. Intercut rhythmically with strophes of black leader, she gyrates in graceful, stroboscopic accelerations. Conner's editing is consummate as he alternates angles of her figure from different shots into a kinesthetic, flowing continuity.

    "Basically a two-and-a-half minute film, this 'module' of image and sound is then reversed. Everything goes 'backwards' to the 'original' beginning. The sound track with Basilotta singing the title song is run in reverse as an aural analogue to the visual abstraction of photography. It resembles a paradigm for those high school physics demonstrations of gravitation where we saw a ball, once thrown straight up into the air, loyally retrace its trajectory to Earth." - Anthony Reveaux

    A dance film viewed twice (once forward, once backward) in five minutes. The film was shot at single frame exposures as well as 8, 16, 24 and 36 frames per second.


    First Film, by Russ Tamblyn (c. 1966, ~8 min., 16mm, color,  silent) (restored print from the Academy Film Archive)

    A fast –paced view of the times and activities of Russ Tamblyn, largely edited in camera. Glimpses of scenic locales, artistic possibilities, people on the move, and the full gamut of filmic manipulations.


    Rio Reel, by Russ Tamblyn (c. 1968, ~6 min, 16mm, color, silent) (restored print from the Academy Film Archive)

    Similar in style to First Film, Tamblyn filmed a journey to Rio.


    A Dance Film Inspired by the Music of Jim Morrison, by Toni Basil, (1968, 2m, color, sound)

    Perhaps the first film to combine classical dance with dancing of “the street.”

    "dancers in white face groove out in photomontage on a black backdrop to the music of Jimi Hendrix…” – from "Paper Monument: A Journal of Contemporary Art," review by Naomi Fry of the exhibition "Semina Culture: Wallace Berman & His Circle" at NYU


    Selections from Topanga Rose (George Herms, 1960s, 25min., film transferred to video color, silent)

    This selection of ethereal home movies shot in and around Topanga Canyon paints a rich portrait of Los Angeles as it once was….

    (The footage we compiled includes beautiful landscape photography, the Birds of Chaos sculpture, Neil Young’s wedding, a protest at the construction of a trailer park, a palm trees study, Gena’s (a local waitresses) wedding, and footage of Herms’ and Paul Beatties’ families)

    This show will repeat at Ceinfamily on Saturday January 7, 2012!