September 7, 2019 - January 5, 2020
Curated by Amy Chaloupka, Curator of Art
The Whatcom Museum is proud to present the work of Bellingham-based artist Ed Bereal for his first museum retrospective, Wanted: Ed Bereal for Disturbing the Peace, which chronicles the full scope of the artist’s diverse practice.
Born in Los Angeles in 1937 and raised in Riverside, California, Bereal was a child who grew up in the shadow of World War II and the segregation and racism that afflicted his immediate community. In the face of this, he was accepted into the renowned illustration program at Chouinard Art Institute and went on to make significant contributions to the arts of assemblage and performance burgeoning in Los Angeles in the 1960s. A shift in his work came in the summer of 1965 during the Watts Rebellion when Bereal was confronted by 10 National Guardsmen, including one pointing a machine gun at him. This profound experience prompted Bereal to step away from making commercially and critically successful artworks and move toward engaging members of his community in social justice work through guerrilla-style street performance. Now living on a farm in Whatcom County, Bereal processes his life’s experiences through a spectrum of provocative imagery and narratives in paintings and installations he terms “political cartoons.”
The exhibition features six decades of artwork, from Bereal’s never before exhibited early journal sketches and self-portraits to his symbolic assemblage to his radical street theater work of the 1960s and ’70s through his troupe Bodacious Buggerrilla. Many of Bereal’s more recent politically charged paintings and installations show a recurring motif of “Miss America,” as he examines racial inequity, gun violence, corporate greed, and political power structures. These issues came into sharp relief for Bereal during the Watts Rebellion and persist at the forefront of our national discourse today.
Now in his eighth decade, Bereal describes a newfound freedom in his practice. He feels unrestricted in the multilingual approach that allows him to express a range of ideas through pop art, abstraction, painterly realism, appropriated imagery, and assemblage. This freedom is visible in his most ambitious project to date, The Five Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Shown for the first time, the sprawling 40-foot-long installation is a visual manifestation of his uncompromising and unapologetic political and social vision of contemporary American society.
Funding for this exhibition is provided by Larry Bell, the City of Bellingham, RiverStyx Foundation, Michael & Barbara Ryan, and the Whatcom Museum Foundation, with additional support from Sharron Antholt, Antonella Antonini & Alan Stein, Patricia Burman, Heritage Bank, Galie Jean-Louis & Vincent Matteucci, Janet & Walter Miller Fund for Philanthropic Giving, Ann Morris, Peoples Bank, Charles & Phyllis Self, Mary Summerfield & Mike O’Neal, Jane Talbot & Kevin Williamson, Nancy Thomson & Bob Goldman, the Whatcom Community Foundation, and the Whatcom Museum Advocates.
Photo credit: Ed Bereal in his studio. Photo by David Scherrer.
Take a docent-led tour beginning Sat., Sept. 14 and learn more about the artist and his works featured in WANTED: Ed Bereal for Disturbing the Peace. Our trained docents will provide insight into his works, as well as discuss Bereal’s background. Tours begin in the lobby of the Lightcatcher and last one hour.