Art & Archives, Exhibitions and Installations, Getty Research Institute

It Happened in L.A.: George Herms Gets Creative for Rent Money

George Herms at Earful, a Tap City Circus raffle in Los Angeles, 1972

George Herms at “Earful,” a Tap City Circus raffle in Los Angeles, 1972. The Getty Research Institute, Gift of George Herms, 2009.M.20.24. Photo by and © Jerry Maybrook

George Herms is known for his poetic assemblages of discarded, disheveled materials. But back in the ’60s, he had preoccupations besides art: he was “tapped out”—that is, broke and ready to tap-dance on street corners for cash—and facing eviction.

His solution? “Tap City Circus,” a carnivalesque fundraiser that was equal parts auction, picnic, and performance. Herms called it  “the highest example of using life’s pitfalls as a springboard.”

The first raffle, held in 1961 in Larkspur, California, was such a success that Herms staged it every 18 months or so until 1972. Each event had a special name. Lucky invitees to the 1965 “Raffle,” Herms’s first Tap City Circus at his new home in Topanga Canyon, received colorful, hand-printed invitations stamped “L-O-V-E.” You can see one in the Pacific Standard Time exhibition Greetings from L.A.: Artists and Publics, 1950–1980, opening this Saturday at the Getty Research Institute.

Announcement for “Raffle,” a Tap City Circus raffle in Los Angeles, June 6, 1965. Designed by George Herms

Announcement for “Raffle,” a Tap City Circus raffle in Los Angeles, June 6, 1965. Designed by George Herms. Letterpress, woodblock, rubber stamping, and tinted gelatin silver print. The Getty Research Institute, Gift of Rolf G. Nelson, 2010.M.38.4

After “Raffle” came “Roofle.” Another was dubbed “Earful.” Prizewinners at the “Waffle” event received a “wall full of effluvia.” (Hear more of the story, and learn about Herms’s mail art, in this video interview with the artist and curator John Tain.)

Raffle tickets, which cost $1, were small numbered cards decorated with poetry or imagery that could also be taken home as souvenirs. Prizes were books or prints. But lucky winners could also opt, as an alternative, to squirt Herms with a hose. And the Grand Prize winner could take home one of the artworks on display in Herms’s house. Tap City Circuses were social gatherings, too. Local artists came to picnic and stage impromptu musical performances.

Ironically, all this industrious work, from the raffles to the elaborate printed cards, required more time and effort than Herms could possibly have recouped in raffle funds. The event’s fusion of childish antics, disciplined craft, and seeming indifference to life’s practicalities was, in the end, an art piece of its own.

Adapted from a sidebar written by Nancy Perloff. Read more about Tap City Circuses in the new book Pacific Standard Time: Los Angeles Art, 1945–1980.

Tagged , , Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

*
*

  • Facebook

  • Twitter

  • Tumblr

    • photo from Tumblr

      thegetty:

      GAME OF THRONES: SEASON 6, EPISODE 2

      Winter is coming. All men must die. And Game of Thrones is back! Stay tuned each week as we unpack Sunday’s episodes through masterpieces.

      Winter is coming indeed! A snowy forecast has just been resurrected thanks to a please-touch-me-and-cut-my-hair lady in red. The epic line “I drink and I know things” provides especially good wisdom for how to tame two dragons

      Several characters went at it this week: a soldier and a friar exchanged heated remarks in the presence of an armed peace mob, a girl with no name and another not-so-kind girl went stick to stick, a crow and a giant went crossbow to stone wall, a first-born son stabbed his father, starving hounds and a new mother went canines to flesh, and two brothers duked it out on a swinging bridge (one fell). Plus, the three-eyed raven (who sits in a tree) taught a forgotten character how to look into the past.


      To make our Game of Thrones posts more international, we’ll feature an image from our Global Middle Ages exhibition and pick “wildcard” images from other collections around the world.

      This week’s pick from the Getty’s Traversing the Globe exhibition comes from @lacma (because we love dragons). The wildcard images were selected from the British Museum (more dragons), the Morgan Library (giants!), and the Museo del Prado (hounds).

      Dive deeper with featurettes connecting the making of medieval manuscripts to the making of fantasy TV. 

      image

      #DesigningGoT - Live Stream May 4 at 7 PM PST

      Michele Clapton, costume designer for the first five seasons of Game of Thrones, joins Deborah Landis, director of the Copley Center for Costume Design at UCLA, and Bryan C. Keene, assistant curator of manuscripts at the Getty, to discuss the series’ medieval aesthetic and the visual sources for her designs.

      Tune in to the live stream here.

      05/04/16

  • Flickr