Lyrical Cool: Kohn Gallery presents a tribute to Shirley Berman

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Lyrical Cool: Kohn Gallery presents a tribute to Shirley Berman
While not an artist herself, Shirley occupied the dual roles of observer and subject, at once the center of the orbit and the cause of its fascination.

LOS ANGELES, CA.- In the Spring of 1951, Shirley Morand famously entered the annals of American art history. Standing in line at the art house Coronet Theater to see Jean Cocteau’s surrealist classic The Blood of a Poet, she was approached by then-unknown artist Wallace Berman. Their chance encounter would put the couple at the forefront of the counterculture movement, with Wallace as the hipster-mystic artist and Shirley as the quiet, yet steadfast first lady of California cool.

Like Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas before them, the Bermans cultivated a social sphere unbeholden to the commercial art world. While not an artist herself, Shirley occupied the dual roles of observer and subject, at once the center of the orbit and the cause of its fascination. With her elfin beauty, preternatural poise, and powerful visual appeal, Shirley Berman embodied a type of ethereal femininity encompassing the evolution of postwar American womanhood. As captured by the likes of Charles Brittin, Patricia Jordan, and Edmund Teske, Berman conveys a kind of glamorous ruggedness, whether superimposed onto double exposure of gothically decrepit landscapes or floating supine on water like an Egyptian goddess.

Kohn Gallery’s “Lyrical Cool: A Tribute to Shirley Berman,” celebrates the unique legacy of this often-overlooked woman, who passed away in early 2022 at the age of 88. Curated by Karl Puchlik, the exhibition will present never-before-shown portraits of Berman, as well as original works drawn from her private collection, including Wallace Berman, Charles Brittin, Bruce Conner, George Herms, Lun*na Menoh, Dean Stockwell, Edmund Teske, and others. An accompanying catalog will feature an extended interview with Berman by Claudia Bohn-Spector, illuminating the overlooked and underappreciated role of women in the Beat Generation as well as an essay by Tosh Berman, son of Shirley and Wallace Berman.

“Shirley’s Left Bank extreme kohl eye shadow and lyrical cool defined and challenged any suburban tendency to be nice or safe.” – David Meltzer

Since its establishment in 1985 by Michael Kohn, Kohn Gallery has presented historically significant exhibitions in Los Angeles alongside exciting contemporary artists, creating meaningful contexts to establish links to a greater art historical continuum. Kohn Gallery represents important West Coast artists with long careers and rich histories such as Joe Goode, Lita Albuquerque and Sharon Ellis, as well as the Estates of Bruce Conner, Wallace Berman, John Altoon, and Martha Alf. Kohn Gallery boasts an expanding roster of emerging and mid-career artists including Caroline Kent, Chiffon Thomas, William Brickel, Ilana Savdie, Heidi Hahn, Jarvis Boyland, Jinbin Chen, Sophia Narrett, Kate Barbee, Nir Hod, Rosa Loy, Gonzalo Lebrija, Mark Innerst, Mark Ryden, and Troika. Visit for the latest information on upcoming exhibitions.

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