Wallace Berman and Robert Watts
October 28 – December 18, 1999
Andrew Roth is pleased to announce the opening of the exhibition “Arranged Marriage: Wallace Berman and Robert Watts.” Presented is a selection of works from the ’60s and early ’70s by these two pioneers exploring the “dark underbelly of Pop.”
Although an unconventional marriage of sorts, Berman and Watts share more in common than might meet the traditional art-historical eye. Berman (1926–1976) was connected with the West Coast Beats, maintaining an early yet brief affiliation with the Ferus stable. He self-published the provocative Mail art Semina and created collages with an early method of multiple-reproduction, the Verifax. He was a magnetic personality, attracting visual artists, poets, and musicians into his intimate network. Well versed in the Kabbala — the Jewish mystical teachings — he incorporated characters from the Hebrew aleph-bet as symbolic artifice in collages made out of the repetition of a hand holding mediated imagery printed on the face of a transistor radio.
Robert Watts (1923-1988) was a member of the faculty at Rutgers University where he participated in Allan Kaprow’s Happenings and produced the Yam Festival with George Brecht, a collaborative performance predating similar Fluxus activities. Profoundly subversive, he attempted to patent the word “Pop,” fabricated hand-drawn dollar bills in quasi-facsimile, and printed his own postage stamps which on occasion successfully made their way through the postal service. Well versed in an array of guerrilla activities, Berman and Watts — the pranksters — built reputations outside the gallery system, preferring the dissemination of their artwork through correspondence for a carefully selected few.
To accompany the exhibition, Andrew Roth has published a 40-page, full-color catalogue with an essay by Simon Anderson, associate professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and author of “Living in Multiple Dimensions: George Brecht and Robert Watts 1953-1963,” in Off Limits: Rutgers University and the Avant-Garde, 1957-1963 (1999) and “Fluxus Publicus” in In the Spirit of Fluxus (1993).
The work of Robert Watts can also be viewed in “Experiments in the Everyday: Allan Kaprow and Robert Watts – Events, Objects, Documents” at the Wallach Art Gallery at Columbia University, October 6 through December 4, 1999.