College of Arts and Sciences


  • Allan Publishes on Wallace Berman, Jazz, and L.A. in the 1950s

    June 30, 2011

    Art History Professor Ken Allan published “City of Degenerate Angels: Wallace Berman, Jazz, and Semina in Postwar Los Angeles" in the recent issue of Art Journal.   The article discusses artist Wallace Berman and the influence of Los Angeles bebop jazz musicians on his underground art and poetry journal, Semina.

    Berman designed the album cover for one of the first recordings of bebop jazz in 1947 that featured Charlie Parker, among others.  A track from this album as well as the cover is featured as online content on the Art Journal website to accompany Allan’s article.

    Berman dedicated an issue of Semina to saxophonist Wardell Gray, whose live recording of “The Chase” with saxophonist Dexter Gordon is also featured on the site.  In this 1952 concert recording in which they trade solos, Gordon and Gray demonstrate the battle of musical wits that made them famous in Los Angeles’s Central Avenue nightclubs during the 1940s.

    “The album cover and the game-like nature of ‘The Chase’ are examples of Berman’s strategies of art- making and community-building in postwar Los Angeles,” said Allan. “They shaped his production of the underground journal Semina.”

    Berman was a crucial figure in the Los Angeles art scene from the 1950s until his death in 1976. His work in the media of assemblage sculpture, photography, and photocollage often elevated the images of popular culture into the realm of the mystical.

    Allan, who received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, specializes in postwar American and European art.  He is currently working on a book on artistic practice, social space and spectatorship in 1960s Los Angeles and essays for an exhibition catalog for “Pacific Standard Time: Crosscurrents in Los Angeles Painting and Sculpture, 1950-1970,” scheduled to open in 2011 at the Getty Center. Allan joined the Fine Arts faculty in 2006.

    The Fine Arts Department in the College of Arts and Sciences offers undergraduate degrees in art history, music, theaterdigital design, and photography and an MFA in Arts Leadership.


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