The Berkeley Art Museum celebrates the 50th anniversary of the publication of Allen Ginsberg's "Howl" with an installation by Allen Ruppersberg that pays tribute to the poem.
Berkeley, CA, August 21, 2006 - Fifty years after the publication of celebrated Beat poet Allen Ginsberg's poem "Howl," the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA) is pleased to present Allen Ruppersberg: The Singing Posters, an exhibition of Ruppersberg's installation paying tribute to the famous poem. On view from October 18 through December 10, 2006, the exhibition will be presented in conjunction with Semina Culture: Wallace Berman and His Circle, which features more works by Ginsberg and other artists, poets, and writers from the Beat generation.
For The Singing Posters, Ruppersberg plasters a gallery with hundreds of Day-Glo advertising posters that reproduce "Howl" - both written out in the original text and translated phonetically, so that, for example, "I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness" becomes "Y SAW thuh BEST MYNDS uhv my je-nuh-RAY-shin di-STROYED BY Mad-nis."
Ruppersberg, who teaches at the University of California at Los Angeles, conceived the work after discovering that many of his students were unfamiliar with the irreverent Beat-era poem, which was the focus of a landmark obscenity trial and has since become an American classic. With its vibrant colors and unconventional spellings, The Singing Posters is a tongue-in-cheek attempt to make "Howl" accessible to future generations.
The installation includes a series of notebooks collecting newspaper articles, magazine ads, concert programs, and ephemera from the late 1950s and 1960s. The scraps in the notebooks, taken with the 1950s graphic-design style of the surrounding posters, deepen the visitor's understanding of the spirit, politics, and culture of the era.
Beginning his career in the radical environment of 1960s Los Angeles, Ruppersberg is part of a generation of groundbreaking Conceptual artists who have altered the way we think about art. Many of his works, like The Singing Posters, text-based and utilize ordinary materials such as postcards, books, and magazines to explore cultural narratives and mythologies, often to humorous effect. Ruppersberg's projects are typically informative and educational, based on the belief that art and life should be interchangeable.
Acquired by BAM/PFA in fall 2005, The Singing Posters is the first major work by Ruppersberg to be added the museum's expanding Conceptual Art Study Center collection, which includes a concentration of works by the first generation of Conceptual artists, such as Bruce Nauman, Tom Marioni, Ant Farm, Terry Fox, and Theresa Hak Kyung Cha.
In 1955, Allen Ginsberg debuted "Howl" on a legendary night at the Six Gallery in San Francisco, and in the fall of 1956, Lawrence Ferlinghetti at City Lights Bookstore first published the poem in the collection Howl and Other Poems. The following spring, as a second printing of the book was en route from England, U.S. Customs officials seized 520 copies, charging obscenity because of frank references to illicit drugs and sexual acts. In the widely publicized trial that followed, many literary experts testified on the poem's behalf, and Ferlinghetti, with the support of the American Civil Liberties Union, eventually won the case.
Semina Culture: Wallace Berman and His Circle
October 18 – December 10, 2006
Wallace Berman was an artist, poet, and, above all else, catalyst for a group of mid–twentieth-century artists, performers, and poets commonly referred to as Beat. His unbound magazine Semina, published between 1955 and 1964, serves as the organizing principle for this exhibition, which features works by contributors and friends - including Jay DeFeo, Bruce Conner, Michael McClure, Diane DiPrima, George Herms, Dennis Hopper, Russ Tamblyn, and many others - as well as portraits and ephemera documenting an extraordinary yet under-recognized moment in postwar American artistic and literary culture. Doug Harvey in LA Weekly called the show "beautiful if you have eyes to see, and deeply compelling if you're looking for a few good stories."
The University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Additional support is provided by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Koret Foundation, the Bernard Osher Foundation, Packard Humanities Institute, the Henry Luce Foundation, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the Columbia Foundation, the Christensen Fund, the William H. Donner Foundation, San Francisco Foundation, Gap Inc., other private foundations and corporations, and our individual donors and members. Major endowment support has been provided by the Phyllis C. Wattis Foundation and by George Gund III.
Gap Inc. is proud to support First Impressions: Free First Thursdays at BAM/PFA. For more information about Free First Thursday gallery tours and screenings visit our website at bampfa.berkeley.edu.
University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive
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