Born in Riverside, California in 1937 and profoundly affected by World War II, Ed Bereal made significant contributions to assemblage and performance arts in Los Angeles during the early 1960s through 1980s. A consummate draftsman and object maker, Bereal found inspiration in such divergent sources as Norman Rockwell's illustrations and the tableaux of Ed Kienholz. His "political cartoons" are unique portraits of America filtered through the lens of an artist who lived through the 1965 Watts riots, founded the noted Black street theater Bodacious Buggerilla, and traveled to hot spots around the world as a film journalist. At the age of 82, Bereal distills a lifetime of experiences through an explosion of provocative imagery and narrative, sparking conversations about identity and racial inequity, violence and war, and political and corporate power.
Whatcom Museum curator Amy Chaloupka presents an expansive overview of the artist's six-decade career in an introductory essay. Matthew Simms delves into Bereal's early journal sketches, particularly his self-portraits, from his time at Chouinard, where Bereal was a student of Irwin's. Malik Gaines, who was responsible for bringing Bereal's Bodacious Buggerilla theater troupe together for a reunion performance in 2012 as part of the Getty's Pacific Standard Time initiative, discusses the importance of Bereal's contributions to guerrilla theater arising in the Post-Watts atmosphere in Southern California. Vernon Damani Johnson concentrates on Bereal's politically charged paintings and installations, and particularly his motif of Miss America, tracing in his essay the trajectory of Bereal's powerful iconography across three decades and what it has to say in a Post-Ferguson era.