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GEORGE HERMS

[1] [3]

[2] [4]

(1) "Mothers Group", assemblage, 2 1/2 x 4' diameter, 1986.
(2) "Ossier", mixed media assemblage, 24 x 24 x 12", 1992.
(3) "No Trespassing", assemblage, 18 x 16 x 8", 1967-78.
(4) "Menorah Phoenix", assemblage, 14 1/4 x 10 1/4 x 11 1/2", 1995.

by Nancy Kay Turner

(Jack Rutberg Fine Arts, West Hollywood) Beat Epiphanies and Home Runs is the title borne by George Herms' maiden show with this gallery, presented to coincide with the Whitney Museum of American Art's Beat Culture and the New America, 1950-1965. The Whitney show examines Beat-era art through such diverse artists as Larry Rivers, Allen Ginsberg, Alan Kaprow, Jack Kerouac, Dennis Hopper, Ed Kienholz--and Herms.

Although the Beat movement is primarily associated with literary pursuits, the Whitney show will make the case that the tenets of the Beat movement--manifested in a fascination with Black culture, jazz, hip slang, travel, rootlessness, a Bohemian lifestyle, Eastern mysticism, and the elevation of the commonplace--had a profound influence on the art of the sixties. Happenings, performance art, impermanent site-specific installations and assemblage all owe an important debt to the Beats. Herms' local exhibition, while not a retrospective, includes both large and small works from all periods of the artist's career, highlighting the consistency of his vision.

Herms creates an homage to the late San Francisco poet and friend Robert Duncan in Donuts for Duncan. The structure of this witty sculpture mimics the body, with a round basket for the head, a twisted hunk of metal serving as the torso, gears for the genitals, and a tripod becoming the legs and feet. Although the individual elements are from different machines, their corroded, rusty orange color holds them all together.

Visual and verbal puns play a part in Herms' work, as Encrustation (Hold Up) demonstrates. A black and white photo, circa the 1950's, depicts one man 'holding up' another. This looks like a grade B movie still from some obscure and forgettable Western. There is a delicate balance between a door hing on the left--which 'holds up' a small oil can and a rusted gear on the right. A graceful arch on the board that everything is affixed to and a strong red 'X' anchors this humorous piece.

Assemblage is essentially the art of rescuing objects of urban detritus, then recombining and transforming them into poetic, humorous or poignant compositions which resonate with layers of meaning. It is an art which relies on intuition: One keeps interesting narrative objects around the studio until the right piece is constructed into which it fits. Stephen Sondheim has said, "Art is making order out of chaos", and that is just the task of the 'junk' sculptor. In Southwest Photo Opportunity Herms creates an elegant cross enclosed by a circle of metal. The earth-toned piece speaks to the spirituality of the Southwest and its myriad and much photographed churches.

Herms has distinguished himself with the constancy of his energetic and youthful vision, and by his prolific output. "Each work is individual," Herms says. "I have tunnel vision and I only look at the work I'm involved with. But at the same time, these are a family."