“A bricoleur is an ingenious fix-it man who can work wonders with the simplest tools and almost no materials.” Walter Hopps No doubt about it. George Herms and Walter Hopps are authentic legends. “George Herms: Hot Set,” a comprehensive survey featuring 45 works of sculpture, collage, and assemblage from 1959 to the present by Beat generation artist and poet Herms, opens Saturday, March 5, at the Santa Monica Museum of Art. The show was organized by Walter Hopps, arguably the most adventurous and imaginative curator in America. When he was director of the Pasadena Museum of Art (now the Norton Simon Museum), he brought the French Dadaist Marcel Duchamp to Pasadena. In 1954, he staged the first show of West Coast Abstract Expressionism in the Carousel on the Santa Monica Pier, and he was one of the founders of the Ferus Gallery. This is the first museum exhibition he’s curated in Southern California in a number of years. Long a champion of Herms’ work, Hopps first met him in 1956, one year before he opened the Ferus on La Cienega with artist Edward Kienholz. Hopps compares Herms’ work in assemblage to that of such masters as Pablo Picasso, Kurt Schwitters, Joseph Cornell, Wallace Berman, and Edward Kienholz. “Hot Set” is Hopps’ reappraisal of the heft and loft of Herms’ oeuvre. The exhibition is accompanied by a SMMOA-produced scholarly catalog, containing “George Herms: The Bricoleur of Broken Dreams…One More Once,” an extraordinary conversation with Herms and Hopps, conducted and edited by writer Anne Doran. Born in Woodland, California in 1935, Herms was introduced by Berman and poet Robert Alexander to the emerging West Coast Beat scene in 1955. Throughout his career, Herms has combined poetry, film, performance, and assemblage. In 1961, he was included in The Art of Assemblage at The Museum of Modern Art in New York. Herms founded The LOVE Press and published woodcuts and books of poetry, including writings by Michael McClure, Diane diPrima, and Jack Hirschman. Herms has been honored with three fellowships from The National Endowment for the Arts, the John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship in Sculpture, the Prix de Rome Fellowship in Sculpture from The American Academy in Rome, and the Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Foundation Award. He is currently Visiting Scholar for 2004–2005 at The Getty Research Institute. He lives and works in Los Angeles. Walter Hopps began his curatorial career in 1954 when he opened the Syndell Studio Gallery while still a student at UCLA, the same year he organized the exhibition in the Carousel. Three years later, he opened the Ferus, which showed the work of such seminal artists as Berman, Jay DeFeo, Robert Irwin, and Kienholz. As director of the Pasadena Art Museum from 1962 to 1967, Hopps organized such groundbreaking exhibitions as “Collage—Artists in California (Directions in Collage), and “Marcel Duchamp: In Resonance,” the artist’s first museum survey. Hopps has been the director of the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., curator of twentieth century art, National Collection of Fine Arts, Smithsonian Institutions, and he founded the Joseph Cornell Study Center at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C. He is the founding director of The Menil Collection in Houston, a curator of twentieth century art for the collection, and adjunct senior curator of twentieth century art at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. The opening reception for “Hot Set” is Friday, March 4, 7 to 9 p.m., with the members’ preview and walk-through with George Herms from 6 to 7 p.m. There will be a Kids’ Art Station workshop from 7–8 p.m.; call (310) 586-6488 ext. 32 for workshop reservations, and payment. On Tuesday, March 8, at 6:30 p.m., “George Herms: The Bricoleur Of Broken Dreams…One More Once,” a conversation between Herms and Hopps, moderated by writer Anne Doran, will be held at the museum (free admission).Located at Bergamot Station, G1, 2525 Michigan Avenue, Santa Monica, SMMOA is open Tuesday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., closed Sunday, Monday, and all legal holidays.
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