Three Notebooks of Sketches and Plans for Installations, with related material

N.p., Various dates, mostly circa 1961 - 1963. Three composition books. Small quartos. Modest wear, mostly Near Fine. Illustrated entirely by Ben Talbert, one of the most important artists in the Los Angeles circle that revolved around Wallace Berman and his publication Semina. Berman and his circle were at the forefront of avant-garde cultural and artistic experimentation on the West Coast, in effect, the western equivalent of Andy Warhol and his Factory workers, with sensibilities representing the Beat and early counterculture movements.

These notebooks are from Talbert's most important period, and the most important period for his circle, when he was directly influenced by and collaborating with Berman, and most of the artworks presage Talbert's most cherished and representative themes – nudes, intense sexuality, S&M scenes, and handwritten and illustrated plans for installations, assemblages, collages, or sculpture. Several drawings and plans are initialed and dated, although most are not, as normal for sketchbooks.

Related material laid in includes several nude and mildly sexual photographs of Talbert and his then-girlfriend, Gayle Davis, a model and exotic dancer who helped him recover from a mental and physical breakdown in the early 1970s. The photos include ones used by them as Christmas Greetings, other clothed photographs of the couple, a handmade Valentine from Gayle to Talbert, several vintage color photographs of Talbert's framed work, a couple of different invitations to memorial retrospectives of his works (after his untimely death in 1975 from a drug overdose at the age of 42), and several additional drawings by Talbert on a variety of different sizes of paper. The sketches, ranging from fully detailed drawings to impressionistic nudes, are executed in a variety of media: pencil, pen and ink, marker, gouache, colored pencil, watercolor, and a few in ball-point pen.

69 pages of partially and fully executed drawings bound in, plus an additional 5 laid in, for a total of 74 pages of drawings. There are 21 pages of handwritten and illustrated plans for installations, plus another 2 laid in for a total of 23 pages. There are about 14 pages of drawing exercises bound in, where Talbert attempted to draw every conceivable object (often more than a dozen objects to a page). There is one additional drawing mounted and used as a greeting card that we are reasonably certain is by Talbert, as it is similar to his style and preferred subject matter (a spurting penis), but whose inscription: "Sam – Luv, Tony,” is from Tony Scibella, a Venice Beach and Denver based poet, collage-maker, and bookman who later married Gayle Davis after Talbert’s death. Sam was his nickname for his first wife Julianne.

While the drawings are appealing and interesting, the plans for Pop installations, assemblages, and sculptures are fascinating, especially considering the time in which they were conceived. They include chastity-belts shaped and illustrated as police badges, and many variations on altered televisions, mostly with sexual twists and innuendoes.

Talbert's work was the subject of a retrospective exhibit at the Andrew Roth Gallery in New York in March of 2007. This previously unrecorded material, representing vital and important work for an overlooked but important experimental artist in the most interesting period of his career.

[Book #114075]