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Utopia and Dissent: Art, Poetry, and Politics in California by Richard Candida Smith. University of California Press. Berkeley and Los Angeles, California. London, England. Copyright 1995 by The Regents of the University of California. 395w

Painter Wally Hedrick (b. 1935) remembered that one bar in San Francisco's North Beach district hired an action painter to work while a jazz combo performed: "That was his job. He made these paintings and while he would paint the musicians would play along with him. He would go like this and they would go doodoo doop. It was very popular in North Beach. The guy would make four or five paintings in an evening. " p168

Wally Hedrick created a sensation in 1958 when one of his mechanical assemblages "attacked" a woman at the San Francisco Museum of Art's annual Christmas party. Three years before, Hedrick had started making sculptures from broken radio and television sets, refrigerators, and washing machines he found in junkyards. He painted over the surfaces with thick layers of impasto and gesso which incorporated the work into the aesthetic of action painting. He was particularly pleased when he could fix an abandoned appliance sufficiently that at least some piece of it would work and he could turn his assemblages into moving sculptures. His "Xmas Tree", built out of "two radios, two phonographs, flashing lights, electric fans, saw motor--all controlled by timers, hooked so [they] would cycle all these things," was featured at the 1958 San Francisco Museum of Art and holiday show. One of the record players played "I Hate to See Christmas Come Around." At the opening, which Hedrick refused to attend, he set a timer so that the piece "suddenly began flashing its lights, honking its horns, and playing its records." One woman who was standing next to the piece when it suddenly turned on found her fur coat tangled into it and then received an electrical shock.

"It caused quite a sensation not because of its artistic merit, but because it attacked this lady, which I thought was very nice... I wasn't making it as an art thing. I was more interested in making a "thing", and if it attacked people--well I guess I knew it was going to attack...I knew it would probably attack because I laid the trap. So it entertained me; I thought the evening was a success." pp 202-203


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