Untitled (Faceless Faces with Kabala)
On View at the Getty Center: Pacific Standard Time: Crosscurrents in L.A. Painting and Sculpture, 1950-1970
In Untitled (Faceless Faces with Kabala), Berman combined found photographic portraits of mid-century couples that he passed through a Verifax machine, obliterating their faces. The work disrupts these comfortable visions of the American Dream, rendering the prettily dressed women and neatly suited men anonymous and unsettling. At the bottom of the work, a line of Hebrew letters is applied with transfer lettering. Berman would have seen Hebrew signs in shop windows during his childhood in Los Angeles’s Fairfax district, and he was particularly fascinated by the Kaballah, a mystical branch of Judaism, which he probably discovered via the poets Robert Duncan or David Meltzer, and read about in the book Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism. Jewish letters recur throughout Berman’s oeuvre. Here, in the context of these rows of anonymous people the script also assumes more somber universal allusions related to the mourning of lost souls and a lost language in the post-Holocaust era.