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The Librarian, 1960

George Herms

American, 1935-
Assemblage: wood box, papers, books, loving cup, and painted stool
57 x 63 x 21 in. (144.8 x 160 x 53.3 cm)
Norton Simon Museum, Gift of Molly Barnes
P.1969.091
© 2008 George Herms

On view

Equal parts alchemist, assemblage artist, and purveyor of all things miasmic, George Herms emerged on the Los Angeles art scene in 1955, at the young age of 20. In the same circle as other Beat generation artists and poets who lived in the bohemian enclave of Topanga Canyon, he soon found his place among his comrades in counterculture. Within this free-spirited environment, they were able to challenge the values of the art world while celebrating a love for society’s cast-off common objects.

Here, The Librarian strains to stand up and maintain an erect posture under decayed books that have become unreadable. A bell hangs from an appendage, and tomes from various literary genres struggle to cling together and remain legible. In this struggle, The Librarian serves as homage to the small-town librarian.

Herms’s art stands as an excellent counterpoint to the American postwar desire for the newest and latest consumer goods. His ambiguous artworks remind us that emotional attachments, while ephemeral, are strong bonds that are hard to break.

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