The Whatcom Museum presents “Wanted: Ed Bereal for Disturbing the Peace,” a solo retrospective featuring the full scope of Bellingham-based artist Ed Bereal’s six-decade career. The exhibition chronicles the artist’s diverse practice through never-before exhibited early drawings, dating from the 1950s and ‘60s, paintings, sculptures, assemblage and radical street theater. “Wanted” opens September 7, 2019 at the Whatcom Museum’s Lightcatcher building in Bellingham, Wash. and will be on display through January 5, 2020. The exhibition is curated by Amy Chaloupka, the Whatcom Museum Curator of Art.
“We’re thrilled to have more than 120 works by Ed Bereal presented in this exhibition,” said Chaloupka. “Many drawings and documentation of collaborative performance work from the early 1960s have never been exhibited before or considered in context with the more iconic assemblage works that Bereal is known for creating. I think audiences will be surprised by the scope and breadth in media and themes the artist has explored across six decades of art-making.”
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 he 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.” 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.
In the companion exhibition catalogue, essay contributor Vernon Damani Johnson, professor of political science at Western Washington University, writes, “Bereal forces us to think about the real place, in terms of our humanity, that the American ideal represents for those on the margins in the artist’s home country, as well as for peoples around the globe.”
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.
Bereal’s work has gained wider recognition at institutions such as the Getty Museum; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; and Cuba’s Havana Biennial. At the age of 82, the artist has never had an expansive solo museum exhibition and the Whatcom Museum is proud to organize his first major retrospective and accompanying catalogue.
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.
- Curator’s Gallery Tour, Saturday, September 7, 1:30 – 2:30 p.m., Lightcatcher building, Included with admission/free to members
- Docent-Led Gallery Tours, Thursdays, Saturdays, & Sundays, beginning September 14, 1:30 – 2:30 p.m., Lightcatcher building, Included with admission/free to members
- Art, Politics, and Community: A Conversation Inspired by Ed Bereal’s Work, in partnership with the Whatcom Dispute Resolution Center, Saturday, September 21, 4 – 5:30 p.m., Old City Hall, Free
- Curator’s Gallery Tour, Friday, October 18, 1:30 – 2:30 p.m., Lightcatcher building, Included with admission/free to members
- Curator’s Gallery Tour, Friday, December 6, 1:30 – 2:30pm, Lightcatcher building, Included with admission/free to members
About the Whatcom Museum: Located in Bellingham’s cultural district, the Whatcom Museum, a non-profit organization operated jointly by the City of Bellingham and the Whatcom Museum Foundation, offers a rich variety of programs and exhibitions about art, nature, and Northwest history. The Museum’s collection contains more than 200,000 artifacts and art pieces of regional importance, including a vast photographic archive. The Whatcom Museum is accredited nationally by the American Alliance of Museums, is a member of the American Association of State and Local History and is a Smithsonian Institution Affiliate.
The Whatcom Museum has two buildings with public hours: Old City Hall, 121 Prospect St., and the Lightcatcher building, 250 Flora St., both open Wednesday – Sunday, noon – 5 p.m.
The Family Interactive Gallery, located in the Lightcatcher, is open Wednesday – Saturday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Sunday noon – 5 p.m. Admission for Museum members is free; $10 general; $8 youth (6-17)/student/senior/military; $5 children 2 – 5; under 2 free. Visit whatcommuseum.org for more info.