On View at the Getty Center: Pacific Standard Time: Crosscurrents in L.A. Painting and Sculpture, 1950-1970
Bereal began to make assemblage as a student at Chouinard Art Institute and he was included alongside his classmates in the controversial 1961 War Babies exhibition at the Huysman Gallery. Bereal’s constructions of found materials often incorporate provocative, often politically loaded imagery. Here the Nazi symbols of the swastika and the Balkenkreuz are painted onto a metal military helmet, while the scraggly tree branch that is affixed to its top evokes the history of lynchings in the United States. Peering inside its illuminated casing, viewers are confronted by the figure of Uncle Sam superimposed with a barcode, suggesting the commercial corruption of this once ideological image. American Beauty is an example of the highly political nature of much assemblage produced in Los Angeles in the 1960s, a time when artists were responding to the social upheaval around them.