PRINT January 1966

Wallace Berman’s Verifax Collages

THE OLD VERIFAX MACHINE CAME with a small studio in Los Angeles that William Jahrmarkt left in Berman’s care about a year ago. Berman was attracted immediately to the grainy sepia textures which the machine produced, and soon found that a considerable degree of control was possible by adjusting exposures, spiking chemicals, etc. A central image, a hand holding a transistor radio, asserted itself; the face of the radio became a kind of screen onto which Berman flashed innumerable suggestive bits and pieces of the “information” found in old books, magazines, newspapers. Jean Harlow nudes, Castro, a striding foot, Kafka, the head of a horse, a pistol. The uncanny textural qualities of the Verifax took care of the rest, binding the various groupings of disparate images into self-contained “poems.”

Each of the Verifax Collages is unique (turning on its head the very purpose for which the machine was designed.) The word “collage” has reference more to the manner in which the works are produced, and, perhaps, to the idea of a series of associated but only poetically related images, than to the kind of art usually described by that word.