Women on the Plinth Catherine Wagley
Us & Them, Now & Then:
Reconstituting Group Material
Travis Diehl
The Offerings of EJ Hill
Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi
Interview with Jenni Sorkin Carmen Winant
Letter to the Editor Lady Parts, Lady Arts
Launch Party August 19th at Blum and Poe
Object Project
Featuring: Rebecca Morris,
Linda Stark, Alex Olson
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos by Jeff McClane
Reviews Mark Bradford
at the Venice Biennale
by Thomas Duncan

Broken Language
at Shulamiit Nazarian
by Angella d'Avignon

Artists of Color
at the Underground Museum
by Matt Stromberg

Anthony Lepore & Michael Henry Hayden
at Del Vaz Projects
by Aaron Horst

Home
at LACMA
by Simone Krug

Analia Saban at
Sprueth Magers
by Hana Cohn
Kanye Westworld Travis Diehl
@richardhawkins01 Thomas Duncan
Support Structures: Alice Könitz and LAMOA Catherine Wagley
Interview with Penny Slinger Eliza Swann
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring:
taisha paggett
Ashley Hunt
Young Chung
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Letter to the Editor
Launch Party
Reviews Alessandro Pessoli
by Jonathan Griffin

Jennie Jieun Lee
by Stuart Krimko

Trisha Baga
by Lindsay Preston Zappas

Jimmie Durham
by Molly Larkey

Parallel City
by Hana Cohn

Jason Rhodes
by Matt Stromberg
Generous
Structures
Catherine Wagley
Put on a Happy Face:
On Dynasty Handbag
Travis Diehl
The Limits of Animality:
Simone Forti at ISCP
(L.A. in N.Y.)
Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi
More Wound Than Ruin:
Evaluating the
"Human Condition"
Jessica Simmons
Launch Party
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring:
Brenna Youngblood
Todd Gray
Rafa Esparza
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews Creature by Thomas Duncan
Sam Pulitzer & Peter Wachtler by Stuart Krimko
Karl Haendel by Aaron Horst
Wolfgang Tillmans by Eli Diner
Ma by Claire de Dobay Rifelj
The Rat Bastard Protective Association by Pablo Lopez
Kenneth Tam
's Basement
Travis Diehl
The Female
Cool School
Catherine Wagley
The Rise
of the L.A.
Art Witch
Amanda Yates Garcia
Interview with
Mernet Larsen
Julie Weitz
Agnes Martin
at LACMA
Jessica Simmons
Launch Party Carla Issue 6
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring:
Analia Saban
Ry Rocklen
Sarah Cain
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews:
Made in L.A. 2016
Doug Aitken Electric Earth
Mertzbau

Jean-Pascal Flavian and Mika Tajima
Mark A. Rodruigez
The Weeping Line
Molly Larkey, Aaron Horst,
Keith J. Varadi, Katie Bode,
Stuart Krimko, Matt Stromberg
Non-Fiction
at The Underground Museum
Catherine Wagley
The Art of Birth Carmen Winant
Escape from Bunker Hill
John Knight
at REDCAT
Travis Diehl
Ed Boreal Speaks Benjamin Lord
Art Advice (from Men) Sarah Weber
Routine Pleasures
at the MAK Center
Jonathan Griffin
Launch Party Carla Issue 5
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring:
Fay Ray
John Baldessari
Claire Kennedy
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews Hana Cohn, Eli Diner,
Claire De Dobay Rifelj,
Katie Bode, Molly Larkey,
Keith J. Varadi
Moon, laub, and Love Catherine Wagley
Walk Artisanal Jonathan Griffin
Reconsidering
Marva Marrow's
Inside the L.A. Artist
Anthony Pearson
Mystery Science Thater
Diana Thater
at LACMA
Aaron Horst
Informal Feminisms Federica Bueti and Jan Verwoert
Marva Marrow Photographs
Lita Albuquerque
Launch Party Carla Issue 4
Interiors and Interiority:
Njideka Akunyili Crosby
Char Jansen
Reviews Claire de Dobay Rifelj,
Matt Stromberg, Hana Cohn,
Lindsay Preston Zappas,
Simone Krug, Keith Vaughn,
Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi
Le Louvre, Las Vegas Evan Moffitt
iPhones, Flesh,
and the Word
F.B.I.
at Arturo Bandini
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Women Talking About Barney Catherine Wagley
Lingua Ignota
Faith Wilding
at The Armory Center
for the Arts
and LOUDHAILER
Benjamin Lord
A Conversation
with Amalia Ulman
Char Jansen
How We Practice Carmen Winant
Launch Party Carla Issue 3
Share Your Piece of the Puzzle Federica Bueti
Amanda Ross-Ho Photographs
Erik Frydenborg
Reviews Eli Diner, Jonathan Griffin,
Don Edler, Aaron Horst
Hot Tears Carmen Winant
Slow View:
Molly Larkey
Anna Breininger and Kate Whitlock
Americanicity's Paintings
Orion Martin
at Favorite Goods
Tracy Jeanne Rosenthal
Layers of Leimert Park Catherine Wagley
Junkspace Junk Food
Parker Ito
at Kaldi, Smart Objects,
White Cube, and
Château Shatto
Evan Moffitt
Melrose Hustle Keith Vaughn
Reviews Benjamin Lord, Aaron Horst, Stephen Kent
Top-Down Bottom-Up Jenny Gagalka
Snap Reviews Aaron Horst, Char Jansen, Randy Rice, Lindsay Preston Zappas
Max Maslansky Photographs
Monica Majoli
at the Tom of Finland Foundation
White Lee, Black Lee
William Pope.L’s Reenactor
Travis Diehl
Dora Budor Interview Char Jensen
MEAT PHYSICS/
Metaphysical L.A.
Travis Diehl
Art for Art’s Sake:
L.A. in the 1990s
Anthony Pearson
A Dialogue in Two
Synchronous Atmospheres
Erik Morse
with Alexandra Grant
SOGTFO
at François Ghebaly
Jonathan Griffin
#studio #visit
with #devin #kenny
@barnettcohen
Mateo Tannatt
Photographs
Jibade-Khalil Huffman
VESSEL // CINS and
VESSEL // PERF
Ben Medansky
I've been a lot of places,
seen so many faces
Nora Slade
Launch Party Carla Issue 1
Slow View:
Discussion on One Work
Anna Breininger
with Julian Rogers
Reviews Tracy Jeanne Rosenthal, Catherine Wagley, Keith Vaughn, Aaron Horst, Kate Wolf, Mateo Tannatt, Evan Moffitt, Cal Siegel
We’re in This Together Lauren Cherry & Max Springer
Distribution
Downtown
ARTBOOK @ Hauser & Wirth
Baert Gallery
Cirrus Gallery
Château Shatto
Club Pro
Dalton Warehouse
Elevator Mondays
The Geffen Contemporary 
at MOCA
Ghebaly Gallery
ICA LA
LACA
MAMA
Mistake Room
MOCA Grand Avenue
Monte Vista Projects
Night Gallery
The Box
Wilding Cran Gallery
Boyle Heights/ Chinatown
A.G. Geiger
BBQLA
Chimento Contemporary
Charlie James
Human Resources
Ibid Gallery
Ooga Booga
Ooga Twooga
Parrasch Heijnen Gallery
Museum as Retail Space (MaRS)
Nicodim Gallery
Venus Over Los Angeles
Eastside
AWHRHWAR
67 Steps
ESXLA
Otherwild
SADE
Smart Objects
Skibum MacArthur
Westside
18th Street Arts
Ben Maltz Gallery at Otis 
College of Art and Design
Christopher Grimes Gallery
DXIX Projects
Five Car Garage
Team (Bungalow)
Pasadena/ Glendale/ Valley
The Armory Center for the Arts
The Pit
Los Angeles Valley College
Natural
The Art Gallery @ GCC
Mid-City
1301 PE
Big Pictures Los Angeles
California African American Museum
Chainlink Gallery
Commonwealth & Council
David Kordansky Gallery
H I L D E
JOAN
Kayne Griffin Corcoran
LACMA
ltd Los Angeles
Marc Foxx
Shoot the Lobster
Ochi Projects
Park View
Praz-Delavallade
The Landing
SPRÜTH MAGERS
The Underground Museum
USC Fisher Museum of Art
Visitor Welcome Center
Culver City
Anat Ebgi
Arcana Books
Blum & Poe
Cherry and Martin
Honor Fraser
Klowden Mann
Luis De Jesus
Roberts and Tilton
Susanne Vielmetter
Hollywood
Diane Rosenstein
Family Books
GAVLAK
Hannah Hoffman
LACE
LA><ART
M+B
Nino Mier Gallery
Moskowitz Bayse
Noysky Projects
Regen Projects
Shulamit Nazarian
Various Small Fires
South Bay
DMV
Grab Bag Studios
The Torrance Art Museum
Elsewhere in CA
Alter Space (San Francisco)
City Limits (Oakland)
Et al. (San Francisco)
Ever Gold Projects (San Francisco)
fused space (San Francisco)
Gym Standard (San Diego)
Helmuth Projects (San Diego)
Interface Gallery (Oakland)
Jessica Silverman (San Francisco)
Left Field (San Luis Obispo)
San Diego Art Institute (San Diego)
Verve Center for the Arts (Sacramento)
Wattis Institute for Contemporary Art (San Francisco)
Non CA
Artbook @ MoMA PS1 (Long Island City, NY)
Editions Kavi Gupta (Chicago, IL)
Good Weather (North Little Rock, AK)
Nationale (Portland, OR)
Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture (Skowhegan, ME)
Small Editions (Brooklyn, NY)
Space 42 (Jacksonville, FL)
Spoonbill & Sugartown (Brooklyn, NY)
Ulises (Philadelphia, PA)
Libraries/ Collections
Bard College, Center for Curatorial Studies Library (Annandale-on-Hudson, NY)
CalArts (Valencia, CA)
Cranbrook Academy of Art (Bloomfield Hills, MI)
El 123 (México City, MX)
John M. Flaxman Library at SAIC (Chicago, IL)
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Research Library (Los Angeles, CA)
Los Angeles Contemporary Archive (Los Angeles, CA)
Marpha Foundation (Marpha, Nepal)
Maryland Institute College of Art, The Decker Library (Baltimore, MD)
Metropolitan Museum of Art, Thomas J. Watson Library (New York, NY)
Midway Contemporary Art (Minneapolis, MN)
Pepperdine University (Malibu, CA)
Point Loma Nazarene University (San Diego, CA)
School of the Art Institute of Chicago, John M. Flaxman Library (Chicago, IL)
Scholes Library, NYS College of Ceramics at Alfred University (Alfred, NY)
Skowhegan Archives (New York, NY)
Sotheby’s Institute of Art (New York, NY)
Telfair Museum (Savannah, GA)
USC Fisher Museum of Art (Los Angeles, CA)
Walker Art Center (Minneapolis, MN)
Whitney Museum of American Art, Frances Mulhall Achilles Library (New York, NY)
Yale University Library (New Haven, CT)

Ed Bereal Speaks

Ed Bereal in his Studio in Los Angeles (1964). Image courtesy of Ed Bereal. Photo: Jerry McMillan.

Ed Bereal in his Studio in Los Angeles (1964). Image courtesy of Ed Bereal. Photo: Jerry McMillan.

 

Ed Bereal is a crucial figure in the history of Los Angeles art and activism. Known for his early assemblage sculptures of 1960s, he took a long hiatus from the art world to focus on politics: education, video production, and guerrilla theater. I sat down to talk with him about his return to art on the occasion of his recent survey show Disturbing the Peace: Assemblage, Sculpture, and Painting 1963-2011 at Harmony Murphy Gallery. What follows are Bereal’s words, excerpted from an edited transcript of the conversation.

 


 

I grew up in Riverside, California. Riverside’s divided down the middle, geographically. The population is divided probably into thirds. A third white, a third black, a third Mexican-American. I don’t remember any kind of problem or disagreement between Mexicans and Blacks, because, you know, your next door neighbor was Mexican. We swapped lunches all the time. “Hey, you want a ham sandwich? ‘Cause I want that taco.” It was a small town. So junior high school, grade school, all of that was pretty much segregated. And I could remember some swimming pools and bowling alleys and so forth that were segregated. You couldn’t go in there. It wasn’t a violent thing, or anything, it was just like that.

My first exposure to the art world was illustration. Norman Rockwell was being pushed at everybody. Coming through high school, this was the mid fifties, and it was commercial stuff… I never saw, really, fine art. I still love that aesthetic. It was illustrations, comic books. And I love jamming it right into the face of really fine art painting, too. So naturally, I wanted to go to Art Center School, and be an illustrator. I finished high school and I decided to take a year, maybe two, to put a portfolio together to send to Art Center.

I was with two other guys, and we’d gone to high school together, and they were the art guys. I hung with the football guys, but I also hung with the art guys. And I noticed their work wasn’t looking that cool. It was a little wanting. So I took some of my drawings and I put them in their portfolio. I was naive, and also I was pretty arrogant, too. “Hey man, that ain’t that cool. Here!” So they took ’em and we all submitted. They both got accepted and I didn’t. It fucked me up, “What was that?” I was very naïve… “Am I so egocentric, and I think I’m so cool, that I can’t see, I can’t tell what people think is good or not good?” I went with that for a while until I realized, “wait a minute, you’ve got to send them a photograph of yourself with your portfolio!” And they were both white.

Ed-Bereal7

Chouinard Students on roof, Los Angeles (1962). Image courtesy of Ed Bereal. Photo: Mel Edwards.

I ended up having to choose Chouinard Art Institute, not knowing it was the hottest, most incredible place to be at in this country at that time. I walked into Chouinard and I very quickly started to see the whole art world, and also started to see where Art Center School was at… that whole commercial corporate place. Chouinard is like where the artists are. My first experience was taking the illustration course. The illustration teacher said “You know, it takes two days to do a good drawing.” And I’m going “Oh, bullshit.” So I do one of those drawings… a great drawing done in a matter of a couple hours, I get up and leave, but I leave the drawing on my board so everybody else can look at it and go, “Oh, shit, this fucker’s good” you know? I mean, it’s just all kind of bullshit, but that’s where I was at, at that time.

So I’m playing it pretty loosey goosey and learning a lot when I happen to walk by a painting class that Bob Irwin was teaching. What the fuck did I do that for? I’m walking by, and Bob’s in there rapping, which he does. And I’m looking at what they’re painting, and I’m going “whoa, man, this is a lot more interesting than making illustrations.” It was mostly abstract painting, and for the students, really bad abstract painting. But the nature of it, the freedom of it, I guess was what was pulling at me.

Our teachers were all the young guys who New York had just “Bam!” dropped the spirit on. And they’re dropping it on us. So I do get involved, get introduced to Clyfford Still, Barnett Newman, Kline, and Rothko, and I had a real feeling that I liked it. My first introduction to Abstract Expressionism was a LIFE magazine article on Pollock. Shown next to a Pollock painting was a painting, which they had gotten a monkey to do. They were tearing away at Pollock’s painting. It was scaring a lot of people. Abstract Expressionism was kicking a hole in everything.

With Irwin, we were having these conversations, and he had always talked about certain things that were arbitrary. So I’m painting on this surface, and I’m going “That’s kind of arbitrary”… painting the front, that’s kind of arbitrary, “I could be painting the back.” Well, as I’m painting, I start painting around the side, big move for me. And I go around, and I go “well, that’s… legal.”

Ed Bereal teaching at UCI. Image courtesy of Ed Bereal.

Ed Bereal teaching at UCI. Image courtesy of Ed Bereal.

There was a place called Standard Brands where you could get a lot of oil paint, cheap. And so I start gobbing it on. Putting a little cornstarch in there, giving it some body. And the paintings start to become somewhat sculptural. Paint started wrapping around, and I loved the shape. They started getting to be bags over stretcher bars, which had to be shaped, with canvas stretched over them. And that’s when they started to get really interesting.

In Riverside I used to work as a mechanic. I loved gears and bolts and brackets and things. California car culture, man… I was deep off into that, but I really questioned the philosophy behind Finish Fetish. I mean, everything can’t be a car fender, right? When John Chamberlin came out from New York I was trying to help him learn how to spray paint and shit. We’d started hanging together, and talked a lot together. I think I modestly had a certain amount of influence on him because I knew how to use my hands.

Anyway, I felt that for me, it all goes back to music, back to rhythm and blues, and that kind of thing—that’s funk… down and dirty and raw. And raw and truth seemed for me to kind of come together really well. I was always into jazz and blues and I wanted that feeling, that rawness to be in there, in the art.

When it gets to the German thing, I’d had a lot of Jewish people go “How can you do that Nazi shit?” I say, “Whoa, stop. Number one: look at my swastika, it’s going the other way. That’s an old religious symbol, and you ought to work that out before you accuse me of a lot of shit.” First, of all, I was raised during the second World War and I thought the Nazi imagery was fucking cooler than shit, man. They were more tuned into weaponry, costuming, ceremony, presentation, that whole thing. The Luger was a piece of magnificent art to me. My father had one. He would let me just look at it. Designed in the 1800s, man. Incredible shit. I understand how my stuff is perceived. There is a beauty, and an accuracy in what the German psyche produced during the second world war, and I’m certainly a product of that.

 You can not stand in a crowd, facing 50 feet of curtains, that are 350 feet wide, with a swastika on top, carved out, three dimensional, and an eagle above it, and not take notice. Visually, that is some powerful shit. I think people read me as aggressive because I really like visual power. Not ideologically, but visually.

I stayed at Walter Hopps’s place, in the early days. I saw the show he curated, on the carousel on the Santa Monica Pier. The art was on the carousel and you could stand in one place and the shit would go around. Chouinard was where most of the people from Ferus Gallery were teaching. So there was a natural affinity. Walter was a very unique guy, in a lot of ways—and in many ways that maybe haven’t even been discussed. But he just immediately flashed to me. So I ended up working at Ferus and was one of the first people to handle Andy Warhol’s Campbell Soup boxes… looking at them, I thought, “Oh, bullshit. Are you fucking kidding?” My job was doing everything. Painting walls. I was hauling the paint rollers and brushes out the back door, as people were coming in the front door to see the show.
 It was a great graduate school.

In 1965 I had a little studio near the corner of Crenshaw and Venice. I was in Dwan Gallery at the time. They were paying me to stay home and make art. It was my habit to come out each morning, stretch, look at the sun, check it out, take a deep breath, go in, slam down a little food, and start working. I worked for 10 or 12 hours. And then I’d come out, grab a quick snack, and then go to Barney’s Beanery and meet all the guys, who were pretty much doing the same thing I was doing. So we’d sit around, talk about art, talk about racing cars, anything. Just blowing off steam ‘til one or two o’clock in the morning, I’d head back to the studio. Go to sleep. Wake up at 10 or 11 o’clock, and do it all over again.

Ed Bereal with artist George Herms. Image courtesy of the artist.

Ed Bereal with artist George Herms. Image courtesy of the artist.

I’m coming home from Barney’s one night, and smelling a lot of smoke… I’m also higher than shit, so I’m driving really, really slow. I get to my intersection at Crenshaw and Venice, and fuck man, everything is going crazy. People are running. Police cars are screaming. I’m kind of wasted and I’m not paying much attention to it, and so I go to bed. Well, I didn’t realize that the Watts Riots had started and I’m going “Wow, man, I’m supposed to know about stuff like that.” Because of my background and the way I was raised, you never let the street get too far away. I had gotten sucked up in the art community, and I’d lost some of the context of where I’d come from.

So I’m kind of thinking about all this stuff, and I’m listening to the radio, and watching TV. A couple days later I got up, and the National Guard had been called in and I didn’t know it. When I walked to my door and opened it, there was a Jeep parked across Venice Blvd., so it looked more like a checkpoint. It was right in front of my place, and the Jeep had a 50-caliber machine gun on it. It was pointed right at my door, which is to say, it was pointed right at me. When I opened my door, the National Guardsman who was sitting behind the gun got startled but he snapped to. I’m standing there, and we’re doing this, kind of like you and me, and I’m going oh, fuck man. This ain’t cool at all… cause he’s got license and he can do whatever.

I was doing pretty well in the art world at the time. And I’m thinking, all those articles and things that were written about me, they wouldn’t stop that bullet. If I put Irving Blum and Walter Hopps in front of me, that wouldn’t stop that bullet. And certainly if I put Virginia Dwan of Dwan Gallery in front of me… that’s a 50-caliber machine gun. And when it hits something, it blows it up. I’m standing there going “I should not have been so removed from certain issues, my culture and facts of life, that I could find myself in this situation. If I get out of this, I’m going to have to recheck my whole thing.”

War Babies (1992) Los Angeles. Left to right: Ed Bereal, Ed Ruscha, Joe Goode, Ron Miyashiro. Photo: Jerry McMillan.

War Babies (1992) Los Angeles. Left to right: Ed Bereal, Ed Ruscha, Joe Goode, Ron Miyashiro. Photo: Jerry McMillan.

So, I got out of Dwan Gallery. I closed my studio. I went back to Riverside. I started writing. The writing turned into a theater piece called America: A Mercy Killing. I didn’t know how to write a play. But happily, I was teaching at two places: University of California, Irvine, and University of California, Riverside, and that was the time when black student unions were going and I was kind of a faculty advisor to them. The students wanted to talk about their reality and issues. I suggested that they do a play. To make a long story short, they started doing these short form interactions, and acting them out. And they got pretty good at it. Maybe too good, because I got fired.

Out of that experience came the Bodacious Buggerilla, the guerilla theater group. Some students followed me to L.A., together with picking up a couple of relatives, some neighborhood people, we put together this group that we tried to make socially and politically solid. The group included a husband and wife, my cousin, and the woman that I was living with at the time. I’ll tell you what: roughly ’68 to ’75, ’76 was the most creative period of my life. Unfortunately, there’s very little film or video documentation of that work today. Pull Your Coat, the TV pilot, from 1986, is the last thing we did, but we did a lot of other stuff before that.

Bodacious Buggerrilla Performance, Los Angeles (1970). Performers: Ed Bereal, Cliff Porter, Nathan Ali. Image courtesy of Ed Bereal.

Bodacious Buggerrilla Performance, Los Angeles (1970). Performers: Ed Bereal, Cliff Porter, Nathan Ali. Image courtesy of Ed Bereal.

Bodacious Buggerrilla Performance, Los Angeles (1970). Performers: Ed Bereal, Cliff Porter, Nathan Ali. Image courtesy of Ed Bereal.

Bodacious Buggerrilla Performance, Los Angeles (1970). Performers: Ed Bereal, Cliff Porter, Nathan Ali. Image courtesy of Ed Bereal.

We did these social/ political vignettes in laundromat parking lots or on church steps. After a while, we got into nightclubs. There was a nightclub on Crenshaw called Mavericks Flats. Richard Pryor used to do his stuff there, the Funkadelics performed there also. We kept everything in the ghetto. We didn’t want to make a big living out of this. We just wanted to talk about the truth of our experiences. So we kept it in the ghetto until we were invited to this left-wing coffeehouse by the name of The Ash Grove, on Melrose near Fairfax. This is when we first came out of the ghetto. We then we started doing places like UCLA, USC, UC San Diego and several California prisons. Our reputation started spreading a lot. We liked seeing ourselves as a kind of Zorro. You know… we’d zip in, we’d do our number, put a “Z” on somebody’s chest, and split. It was getting out there. People would say, “Man, you gotta see these guys, ‘the Buggerrillas’, man, they’re outrageous.”

Ed Bereal, film still from Pull Your Coat (1986). Video, 27 minutes. Image courtesy of the artist and Harmony Murphy Gallery.

Ed Bereal, film still from Pull Your Coat (1986). Video, 27 minutes. Image courtesy of the artist and Harmony Murphy Gallery.

Ed Bereal, film still from Pull Your Coat (1986). Video, 27 minutes. Image courtesy of the artist and Harmony Murphy Gallery.

Ed Bereal, film still from Pull Your Coat (1986). Video, 27 minutes. Image courtesy of the artist and Harmony Murphy Gallery.

Different audiences who found us would respond to us very differently. Because of the nature of what we did, in Hollywood, with a predominantly white audience, maybe a vignette would go on for half hour. If we did the same piece in the ghetto at a festival, it would go on for maybe an hour, maybe longer. Because what would happen is, our characters would interact with audiences in the ghetto and it would become an improvisational political education class, on the spot.

We were very close to the Black Panther Party, and close to couple of other paramilitary groups who would critique our performances. At the same time, there were other black cultural groups from a different political perspective, that were also close. So we became kind of the mouthpiece, able to talk about, and maybe even in some ways, unify certain ideological points of view. And it worked out really cool. We were very successful at what we did, so successful that the FBI took notice. They had some theory, some fear of a united front of black groups, brown groups, and decedent white people who were not on board with their official truth. It was called COINTELPRO (Counter Intelligence Program). This was aimed at groups like the Bodacious Buggerrilla, Cesar Chavez, El Teatro Campesino, the New Sudan group out of Texas, probably the San Francisco Mime Troup, and possibly the new Amsterdam Theater in New York. I’ve never gotten around to filing a Freedom of Information Act request on myself. Oh, I know something’s there.

Bodacious Buggerrilla performance, Los Angeles (1970). Performers: Tendai Crutchfield, Alice Cooper, Larry Brussard, Cliff Porter. Image courtesy of Ed Bereal.

Bodacious Buggerrilla performance, Los Angeles (1970). Performers: Tendai Crutchfield, Alice Cooper, Larry Brussard, Cliff Porter. Image courtesy of Ed Bereal.

Bodacious Buggerrilla performance, Los Angeles (1970). Performers: Tendai Crutchfield, Alice Cooper, Larry Brussard, Cliff Porter. Image courtesy of Ed Bereal.

Bodacious Buggerrilla performance, Los Angeles (1970). Performers: Tendai Crutchfield, Alice Cooper, Larry Brussard, Cliff Porter. Image courtesy of Ed Bereal.

Bodacious was more than just a theater group. We had a farm out in San Bernardino, where we would raise our food. We thought the revolution was about ten minutes away. We were very naive. So we were raising food, and animals, to sustain ourselves, if we had to. We also had an extensive program for self-defense, which included not only the members of Bodacious but also our family members. We were doing all that self-defense shit. So the FBI started looking at who and where we were coming from. Eventually, because of “Co-Intel-Pro” and their dirty tricks, Bodacious was starting to be pulled apart. It was becoming very difficult to do our performances anymore.

When I got back into making art in the late ‘80s I was kind of floundering around cause y’know, I left it doing one thing with one mentality, now I’m coming back to it and I’m not even the same guy. So I’m trying to figure it out. What do I want to do? I’m a much more political animal than I was before.

In the recent work, I began to ask myself: “Well, what does Miss America look like, from my side of the street?” Then I’m thinking in terms of all the places I’ve been, and all the killing I’ve seen, and how much American armament is responsible for all of that. I guess I was thinking politics and I was thinking, well, Norman Rockwell. Norman Rockwell is one of the most political artists I know. And I’m looking at this world, that he has fucking created out of space. I understand so you would like things to look like that and be like that, but they aren’t. The only place I ever saw it get close was Ireland. ‘Cause there’s old guys working the train stations that look like Norman Rockwells. He loved turned up shoes, and puppies, and popsicles, and red-noses with freckles on them. He loves all that shit. You can actually find that in Ireland. But I’m going: “I have lived in this world for a long time, and my neighborhood was never like that. It didn’t look like that. And if that’s America, then America’s got several sides to it.” And then I’m thinking in terms of all the places I’ve been, and all the killing I’ve seen, and how much American armament is responsible for all of that. And that don’t look like Norman Rockwell. And I kept getting hung up with the Miss America thing, the symbol for this country. We’ve got symbols: Uncle Sam, and Miss America, a lovely thing with a flag draped over it. And I went “what’s she look like, really, from my point of view?” and that’s when she started to develop in those drawings and so forth.

Right now I’m working on a large piece, called The Five Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The fifth horseman is corporate capitalism, I think properly so. So I have these great big, five-foot steel letters, which I use as frames/ stretcher bars. The letters spell E-X-X-O-N. And I’m doing a horseman in each one. I started buying gas pumps, physical gas nozzles with the head that you turn on. And if you take a gas nozzle, and you mount it like this, and if you take two hand grenades, and you wire them to the nozzle like this, and you attach one to each one of the letters it translates into five dicks with balls. Inside each letter will be apocalyptical imagery, formed by perforated metals and plastics with halftones to see if I can get that whole visual vibration thing happening. Roughly, that’s it. That’s the immediate project. The medium itself is being born in that piece.

Bereal and Boys (2004) Los Angeles. Left to right: Ed Bereal, Joe Goode, Larry Bell, Ed Ruscha, Ron Miyashiro. Photo: Jerry McMillan.

Bereal and Boys (2004) Los Angeles. Left to right: Ed Bereal, Joe Goode, Larry Bell, Ed Ruscha, Ron Miyashiro. Photo: Jerry McMillan.

Ed Bereal with his wife, artist Barbara Sternberger, on their farm in Washington. Image courtesy of the artist.

Ed Bereal with his wife, artist Barbara Sternberger, on their farm in Washington. Image courtesy of the artist.

Ed Bereal, Homage to LA: Just a lil Sumpthin for the Kids) (1963-1994). Mixed media, 84 x 63 x 32.5 inches. Image courtesy of the artist and Harmony Murphy Gallery. Photo: Marten Elder.

Ed Bereal, Homage to LA: Just a lil Sumpthin for the Kids) (1963-1994). Mixed media, 84 x 63 x 32.5 inches. Image courtesy of the artist and Harmony Murphy Gallery. Photo: Marten Elder.

Ed Bereal, Again (Miss America, George Dubya and the Missing Florida Votes) (2002). Oil on composite material, 40 x 51.5 inches. Image courtesy of the artist and Harmony Murphy Gallery. Photo: Marten Elder.

Ed Bereal, Again (Miss America, George Dubya and the Missing Florida Votes) (2002). Oil on composite material, 40 x 51.5 inches. Image courtesy of the artist and Harmony Murphy Gallery. Photo: Marten Elder.

Ed Bereal, Location, Location, Location (Iraq/Afghanistan) (2002). Oil on composite material, 74.75 x 43.75 inches. Image courtesy of the artist and Harmony Murphy Gallery. Photo: Marten Elder.

Ed Bereal, Location, Location, Location (Iraq/Afghanistan) (2002). Oil on composite material, 74.75 x 43.75 inches. Image courtesy of the artist and Harmony Murphy Gallery. Photo: Marten Elder.

Ed Bereal, El Producto, a Plumber's Friend (2002). Graphite and collage on paper, 35.5 x 48 inches. Image courtesy of the artist and Harmony Murphy Gallery. Photo: Marten Elder.

Ed Bereal, El Producto, a Plumber’s Friend (2002). Graphite and collage on paper, 35.5 x 48 inches. Image courtesy of the artist and Harmony Murphy Gallery. Photo: Marten Elder.

Ed Bereal's farm in Bellham, Washington. Image courtesy of the artist.

Ed Bereal’s farm in Washington. Image courtesy of the artist.

Ed Bereal on his farm in Washington. Image courtesy of the artist

Ed Bereal on his farm in Washington. Image courtesy of the artist.

Ed Bereal on his farm in Washington. Image courtesy of the artist.

Ed Bereal on his farm in Washington. Image courtesy of the artist.

Carla_Quarterly_Issue5

Originally Published in Carla Issue 5.