Time Out New York / Oct 21-27, 2010

George Herms

Described in the most eccentric press release I’ve read in a while as “the genetic mutation of a poet with sculptor DNA,” George Herms is also credited with inventing assemblage (“arguably, the first completely homegrown cannabis of art practices”). Since 1956, he has produced hundreds of works using discarded objects of every variety and state of repair. He’s reportedly filled six storage facilities with a trove of these things, and he continues to salvage, work and rework his collection this day. A West Coast cohort of Bruce Connor and Ed Kienholz, Herms has become something of a beatnik legend. This survey of Herms’s prodigious output privileges his most recent work, but also includes the likes of 1962’s News Stand and Flotilla of Friend Ships: Second Half of the Twentieth Century, dated 1950–2000.

The antique charm of Nyehaus’s digs suits Herms’s work to a tee—so much so, in fact, that it seems almost to have emerged from the walls and weathered floors of the building. Such is the “just there” feel of the whole enterprise, it’s difficult to pick out examples of good or bad work by the veteran Californian, but one might point to Thelonious Sphere Monk (2004)—in which an old piano is piled with an array of unlikely artifacts in homage to the jazz legend—and Secret Archives (1974)—a set of cubbyholes stuffed with similarly rusty, dusty treasures—as being representative. Herms has spent a lifetime tracking the accidental and the everyday, tweaking his findings a little here and there but largely just allowing them to be themselves.

Image: George Herms, Assemblage, n.d.