Friday, January 18, 2019

TOSH BERMAN DISCUSSES HIS MEMOIR "TOSH" WITH JASON SCHWARTZMAN at the fantastic, wonderful, and one of my second-homes, Skylight Books in my (I do own) Los Angeles. Bookstores mean a lot to me. I like going to the store, and hanging out, and just noticing not only the books on the shelves but also the people who come in and out like a wave hitting a beach. Like being in a record store, I never ever had a bad time in a bookstore. Skylight Books is (sort of ) walkable from my headquarters, and a delight in every visit. Also, they have a killer Graphic Comic section. Do support your local book store. For one, you can preorder my book, signed, and they will even mail it to you, wherever you leave your hat (or wig). For those who will go, here's the info:

Event date:
Tosh & Jason at Skylight Books
Thursday, January 24, 2019 - 7:30pm
Event address:
1818 N Vermont Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90027

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Dennis Hopper - Interview Retrospective 2008 | part 1 (Wallace Berman)

Dennis Hopper was an old friend of my dad, Wallace Berman.  Here's an interview he gave for regarding knowing and hanging out with my dad. I wrote about this in my book "Tosh: Growing Up in Wallace Berman's World" (City Lights)   Thanks to Kevin Bradford for bringing this footage to my attention.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

"What it Means to Write about Art" by Jarrett Earnest (David Zwirner Books)

ISBN: 9781941701898
As a writer, I try to do these little exercises by writing a description of my office or other rooms in the house. It's difficult, but once you start thinking about a room or space, that has stuff in it, it becomes a self-portrait or a statement in itself. I can be abstract in my method, but I want the reader to know what it is like to be in my office. Also, I try to focus on every object that is placed in the room, and what it represents or how space is used around its surroundings. I can imagine writing about film or music, but the idea of writing criticism or observation on 'art,' is a mystery to me. For instance, how does one put in words about a Jackson Pollack painting? I can write about the process of making such a painting, but what it means to me as a viewer of that work? How does one put words or vocabulary together describing artworks? It is with great interest that I read Jarrett Earnest's collection of interviews with art critics on their craft and talent in describing, writing, and commenting on the visual art world. "What It Means to Write about Art" is a stunning collection, that makes me think of art criticism as a form in itself. 
For me, I find art criticism or writing tedious. I can never figure out why I find something so exciting as seeing an exhibition can be a chore to read, done by an art critic. I now realize that it's not the critics' fault, but more of me going into a foreign world, writing about something that is unexplainable and mysterious. On the other hand, when I look at an article written by a professor or sometimes a curator, I tend to think it's not as well written or enjoyable if a poet wrote it. Then some poets write art criticism, and that, I find fascinating. Eight out of thirty art critics are well-known poets in this collection. All thirty, are interesting people, with strong opinions, and the vocabulary and writing skills to back up their stance about an artist and their artwork. The poets especially are good, because I suspect that they look at writing as another form of sculpture, and therefore one medium or style works with the other quite well. 
Jarrett Earnest is a fantastic interviewer, and I can't imagine a better set of questions to these specific writers, regarding their origins as a critic as well as how they see their profession in the bigger landscape of the arts. All of them I believe are into the big discussion of art aesthetics and politics, and it's a very individual path that some of these writers take in their work. For instance, for some, politics is a big part of their writing, some it's the issue of queer studies and how it mixes in the culture that they write about. Or how race and the power structure plays in the world of the arts. Others are looking at art as a stand-alone object or piece that expresses an inner-world or expression of how to see things. Earnest doesn't seem to leave anyone out, and this is a fantastic volume of interviews, that not only focuses on the writing of the arts but also what makes a writer tick. 
Not everyone in this book I find utterly fascinating due to their writing or stance. But reading all the interviews, I find myself entertained, informed, and also admire that each one in their method can describe or make commentary on the visual arts, in such a manner that is a dialog as well as a pointed expression of opinion and passion. Earnest knows how to communicate with the subject matters here, and he comes off charming, and never dwells into 'art-speak' or art-talk' language. Some of the writers here write for specific art journals (like "October") while others write for massive publications like The New Yorker, The New York Times, WSJ, and so forth. As a writer, I find their advice and thoughts profound and having them comment on the nature of art criticism; it's an exciting relationship between observer and art object. 
I recommend "What it Means to Write About Art" to anyone who is interested in writing art criticism, but even more important for anyone who cares about writing as a medium to express themselves or thoughts on another medium such as art. A great book published by David Zwirner Books, who do excellent titles on and by art writers who write criticism. - Tosh Berman

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

TamTam Books at Alias Books East in Atwater Village

Alias Books East in Atwater Village has a selection of books published by TamTam Books.  

- Boris Vian's "Autumn in Peking"
- Boris Vian's "Red Grass" 
-Boris Vian's "To Hell With The Ugly"

& a book by Ron Mael and Russell Mael of the band Sparks.  "In The Words of Sparks: Selected Lyrics"  Edited by Ron and Russell, with a great introduction by Morrissey.  

And, also for sale is "Memory Before Action" text by Tosh Berman and art by Senon Williams.  Very limited and of course, very special.  All exclusively on sale at Alias Books East.  Located 3163 Glendale Blvd, Los Angeles, CA, 90039.  For more information, here's their website:

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Flashback: Issue no. 4, Winter 2013

As mentioned in another post, I'm absolutely fascinated with the magazine "Flashback," which is edited by Richard Morton Jack, with good music journalists, especially Richie Unterberger.  The focus of the publication is Underground rock music from the late 1960s to the 1970s.   Reading "Flashback" is very much like being in a dark room with one light bulb, and no awareness of what's happening outside that room on a regular basis.  Life stopped around 1975 or so, and your only reference is obscure recordings by even more obscure artists.   For instance, the front cover is the band Trees, which I'm sure most of you never heard of them.  Nor have I, they're a British folk-orientated group that recorded for British Columbia Records, and made two albums in 1970.   33 pages, with no ads, but plenty of photos, documents, images of contracts, and various flyers for gigs, but insightful journalism on the band by David Biasotti.

In this day and age of Twitter and online publications, it's fascinating that there is a magazine like "Flashback" that is beautifully printed and designed, and obsessed with bands that fell through the cracks of fame and attention.  Each article on a band runs from 20 to 30 pages, and all are clearly written to be the last word on the subject.  Researched to a maximum level, only a music geek can appreciate.  For those who only have a passing interest in pop music history should move on to the current Rolling Stone or some other mass-market publication, because "Flashback" is a beautiful and endlessly informative love feast on music and artists that are important, but never got their fame or sales in the marketplace.

Issue number 4, besides the interesting piece on Trees, also has a long article on the band Mandrake Memorial, which of this date, I actually located their debut album (which is on its way).    From Philadelphia and they were very much part of the psychedelic scene in that city.  Also is a memoir by Beverly Martyn, a singer who worked with, and married John Martyn.  A harrowing account of her life with the horrifying John which is depressing, but good to hear she's still about making music (as of 2013, my issue here is old).

There's a great piece on exploitation albums from the late 1960s and early 70s that were a knock-off of major hits of the time, including music from the underground scene.  Anonymous musicians who recorded such albums as "Blow Your Mind," "Hair The 31 Flavors," "Light My Fire" by the Firebirds and so forth.   And to top it off there's an excellent and lengthy article on various obscure mono and stereo recordings and which ones are better.  And if you can even purchase such records from the psychedelic era without being pushed into the poor house.  The reviews are plentiful, and very in depth with a focus on CD Boxsets as well as on artists like Harry Nilsson (who is probably the most known figure in this magazine to a general audience).

Each issue, so far, has a feature on a British music publication, and here we "Go."  I never heard or seen this magazine before, but as a publisher, and a fan of music publications, I find it obsessively fascinating on all accounts.   "Flashback" are moments of perfection, and an incredible guide to music I would never be aware of, or ever being in their presence.  I got my issues from Forced Exposure.

Forced Exposure website:

Friday, November 23, 2018

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Sunday, November 18, 2018

A Short Story by Tosh Berman

I buy art like others buy blankets to keep them warm in a freezing night.  I figured if it gets too cold I can burn the painting for warmth.  Excellent investment for one's mental and physical health.  I went to a poster shop in Westwood where they sell 20th-century prints of famous paintings. It was here where I purchased a print of Caravaggio's "The Incredulity of Saint Thomas, originally painted sometime between 1601-1602, but the reprint made in 2004.  

The owner of the shop there at the time, Mr. Gagosian, had a wide selection of prints to buy, or even rent if one is on a budget.   I was taught at an early age never to rent or borrow and to purchase is the best policy.  Mr. Gagosian asked me what I was looking for. I told him that I wanted something that expressed the angst and worries of this sad century, but also something colorful to match the interiors of my living room.   He asked me what my budget is, and I told him that not to be concerned about budgeting and that I'm going to the boundaries of $50 to $100. 

He showed me a print of a painting by Edward Hopper, called "Chop Suey."   It's a very nice figurative painting of two women having a meal or chatting over a table, and there is a man and woman in conversation on the side of the painting.  The one thing that I found troublesome about the painting is the title.  "Chop Suey."  I didn't think the interior of the restaurant looks oriental.   And the other thing that bugs me is that one can see the signage outside the building saying 'Suey." Or to be exact, we can see the letters "U" and "E" clearly but we have to presume that the half of the "S" Is actually an "S."  And the "Y' could be easily a "V" in this painting.   I don't know why I'm focusing on the lettering of the side of the building, or perhaps what is a neon light - or even if the painting takes place in the evening.  The more I look at this painting I found it disturbing.  I asked Mr. Gagosian for a discount, due to the upsetting composition of the work.   It's initially $100, but I got it knocked down to $90.  

The other painting that caught my eye is a work by David Hockney.  "Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)."  I prefer if the painting is called "Pool with Two Figures."   I don't think we need the word artist in the title. Since it's a painting by an artist, why put a focus on artist again.  It's a colorful painting of a young man, who's dressed nicely looking at another young man in a swimming pool.    At first, I thought the man in the pool drowned, and we're just looking at a floating body.  But I think the artist would have called the painting  "Pool with a Dead figure and Young Man" or something of that order.  Still, I love the mountain range in the picture, and the composition is excellent. Plainly worth the $100, but then Mr. Gagosian told me that this print would be $150.  To my surprise, he wouldn't go down from that price.  I then immediately walked out of the store, thinking he would stop me.  I turned around the corner and again, to my surprise, he didn't run after me. I then walked back into his shop, and he knew I would pay the full price of $150.   

Nevertheless, for a total of $240 (plus sales tax), I can bring two decent paintings back to my home.   I learned that one should never fret over art prices, and to do so will make you look or sound cheap.  The worth of art is something beyond currency.  Although the money of a Monopoly game does look good. 

- Tosh Berman