Wallace Berman, Billy Jahrmarkt and the Greatest Gallery

23973

A handmade mail art collage announcement made by Berman for an event at Billy Jahrmarkt’s Batman Gallery, which featured Lew Welch and Kirby Doyle reading, as well as a film or performance by Paul Beattie and Bill Spencer. The postcard is illustrated with a pasted down photograph by Wallace Berman, which features Lew Welch peering out from beneath a hole in a dock or floorboards, with the large leatherbooted foot of Kirby Doyle poised above his fingers. The image appears on p. 61 of Wallace Berman: Photographs.

The event which this commemorates was likely the joint reading of Welch and Doyle’s “Din Poem” in 1961, which is mentioned in the chronology in Ring of Bone. The event was likely held on the opening of George Herms’ show that year at the gallery – a reminiscence by George Herms in Foley notes that Beattie showed a film and Doyle and Welch read at his the opening of his exhibition that year [Foley p. 21]

The Batman Gallery had opened in November of the previous year, and though only active for 5 years, was in retrospect on the most important alternative art galleries of the west coast. The walls had been painted matte black by Bruce Conner, who was the first artist to be shown. Jahrmarkt was a close friend of Berman, whose Verifax collages were created on a machine given to Berman by Jahrmarkt. A very early work by Berman with an excellent assocation, linking him with a close associate and the greatest gallery of the time.  

Berman, Wallace. Mail Art Announcement for an Exhibit at Batman Gallery.

San Francisco: 1961. Collage, silver gelatin print. ink, and postage stamp on card stock [3 5/8 x 6 1/4″]. Addressed in Wallace Berman’s hand to Billy Jahrmarkt and postmarked in May of 1961.

Ray Johnson Dreams of Marcel Duchamp

23988

 

Johnson, Ray. Untitled Collage “Duchamp had also painted an overdoor in the drawing room. . .”.

np: [1958]. 8 1/2 x 11″, collage with graphite holograph on white paper. Folded twice and housed in the original mailing envelope, postmarked in 1958.

The publication last year of Not Nothing: Selected Writings, 1954-1994, by the excellent people at Siglio Press was one of my favorite books of the year. It brought much needed attention to Johnson’s work as writer, and he was one of the most consistently fascinating writers of his time, though his strange texts are often overshadowed by the emphasis on the visual element of his work.

This is my work by Johnson – a simple collage consisting of an engraving of men working on roofs, from an unknown source, matched with a handwritten text by Johnson recounting a dream visit to the Duchamp residence. An early tribute to an artist that would arguably influence Johnson’s body of work more than any other, as references to Duchamp abound throughout Johnson’s oeuvre.

Ray Johnson wasn’t the only artist to dream about Duchamp – the matter of fact quality of his account is similar to Joseph Cornell’s transcriptions of dreams he had about Duchamp in the late 60’s, or even the gangster in the fourth case of the film Dreams That Money Can Buy – the Duchamp scene -in which the gangster wants a dream that will help him win horse races – all three scenes installments in a hypnagogic, alternate dream history of influence in conceptual art.

The work was included in Not Nothing: The Selected Writings of Ray Johnson, as plate no. 8.

Boy London and Peter Christopherson

23956

The first advertisement made for the infamous London fashion store, a large format poster designed by Peter Christopherson. Boy was formed in 1977 on King’s Road by John Krivine and Steph Raynor. Christopherson at that time was both a member of Throbbing Gristle, and of the design company Hipgnosis, who had been responsible for some of the most recognizable album covers of the era, including Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here. Krivine invited Christopherson to create the initial design for the store after seeing COUM’s poster designs for the Citizen’s Theatre in Glasgow.

Christopherson was responsible for the initial concept and design of the store, including the typography, and also the window displays, which showed an unconscious or dead young man. Genesis P-Orridge described them to Jon Savage as follows: “The idea was that a boy had climbed in to steal stuff, accidentally knocked over an electric fire and set the place on fire and burned to death. And these were the leftovers of the boy. So there was a Doc Marten boot with bits of flesh and there was a bit of his jeans and buttock and a finger with a ring and some mouldy hand. And they were in little forensic dishes in these glass boxes like you would find at the Black Museum. So this was just a parody of a mixture of forensic evidence and vandalism.” – [P-Orridge, quoted in Ford 7.4-7.5]

The window display was provocative enough that the windows were soon vandalized, a problem that would dog the early days of the shop. Boy London would go on to become on the most influential and controversial fashion lines of the 80’s. Christopherson would go on to form Coil with John Balance. A rare example of the early work of the most innovative and provocative designer of the period, or of any period.

Christopherson, Peter. Boy London. The Strength of a Country Lies in Its Youth. London: Boy London, [1977]. 16 1/2 x 23 3/4″, offset litho.

A strong, very good example, never folded, with creasing along the left margin.

The San Francisco Zookeeper Who Let Michael McClure and Bruce Conner in to see the Lions

23978

 

The San Francisco Keeper’s Voice, edited by zookeeper Alexander Weiss, was one of the most unusual little magazines of the 60′s. The magazine was actually a zine devoted to the art of being a zookeeper, with contributions from zookeepers, though some issues included poetry, including a contribution from Richard Brautigan in a different issue.

One of the most interesting poetry happenings of the 60′s was when Michael McClure read to the lions in the San Francisco zoo, which was filmed by Bruce Conner – clips can be seen on Youtube. I’ve always wondered how McClure and Conner got into the zoo, and on the back of this copy, which McClure had mailed to Marshall Clements, he lets the cat out of the bag (or the lion out of the cage) –

“Marshall, Alex Weiss the ed. of this paper is the lion keeper who opened up the lion house for Bruce Conner & I… ”

McClure has a poem in this issue, and in the editor’s note to the poem Weiss seems to also obliquely hint at the event – “Michael McClure is a poet of inter-organic importance. His “Beast-Language” Poems have created quite a stir among mammals of all kinds.“

 

 

23978_a

Weiss, Alexander, ed. San Francisco Keeper’s Voice, Vol. 1 No. 2. San Francisco: Alexander Weiss, 1965. First edition. 4to, 8 pp, offset printed and stab-stapled. Addressed to Marshall Clements in McClure’s hand, with six line holograph note.  [23978]

 

Good Old Solomon

 

23963

 

23963_a

 

23963_b

 

23963_c

I’ve been fascinated lately by publications from the German underground in the 60’s and 70’s, specifically those that came from communes. There are a surprising number, and for some reason they are largely unknown on these shores. This book, Guter Alter Salomon, was published by Klepperkommune Mainz in 1970.

It was printed by Geburtstagpresse, one of the key underground presses of the time, and like many of their books it utilizes a great, narrow 4to format – narrow enough to fit into a pocket, but the height gives a larger printing field for images. The choice of format may have also been economical, as a book in this format would likely use a standard sized sheet of paper with little trim loss.

The book is a collection of old testament and religious quotes about sex, interspersed with provocative, political pop art illustrations by one Wolfgang Blacha. I’ve been able to find out little about the artist, but would be glad to hear from anyone who knows of other work by him, or have more information about Klepperkommune Mainz.

Klepperkommune Mainz. Guter Alter Salomon. Mainz: Geburtstagpresse, 1970.