L.A. artist, Herman was born and educated in Germany. He moved to California in 1977 where he started working with canvases. Painted with a loose, colorful hand, they managed to be simultaneously expressive and conceptual, with traces of Georg Baselitz and Anselm Kiefer. Herman was recognized as the West Coast parallel of eighties neo-Expressionist movement. Gagosian quickly represented him and positioned him as the California counterpart to David Salle and Jean-Michel Basquiat.
In the mid-eighties, Herman was offered a position in the art department of UCLA where he continues to teach and explore a broad range of styles. ‘It is about painting, not about subject matter. I don’t have a narrative,’ Herman says about his work. ‘The subject is always painting, which is why there is a repetition always— like Morandi. I’m trying to go somewhere I’m not comfortable.’
In the last thirty years, Herman has contributed to the rise of several West Coast artists, who today pay their respects to him. Artist Cyril Kuhn says, ‘Every painter in the last 30 years who has come out of Los Angeles owes a debt to him’.
Between 1998 and 2008, he ran a gallery in Chinatown for a young artist group called Black Dragon Society. In 2010, at ACME gallery, he organized ‘Los Angeles Museum of Ceramic Art,’ a show of unconventional ceramics (…). He included his own lop-sided pieces, painted with nudes in erotic poses.
In 1998, Herman rethought the direction of his work, and began to work in clay. Although he had been a professor in the prestigious UCLA art department since 1984, he opted to take lessons from one of his graduate students, Lisa Yu. A self-described “binge worker,” Herman at the outset spent 10 hours a day throwing pots and drawing pictures on them of women engaged in obvious sexual acts, in the style of Japanese erotic prints.
Raw energy and an instinctual sensory relationship to colour and textures is immediately apparent through the bulk of his work, which spans from drawings to paintings, books to ceramics, t-shirts and woodcut prints. His wild blends of ad-hoc and quickly-dashed lines, shapes, opacities, smears layer together in awkward but satisfying compositions. They’re so careless as to seem accidental, but as with any material mastery, what looks effortless actually requires decades of practice. Gestures are as boldly applied as covered up, allowing shapes to recede and reveal themselves simultaneously, in a true polyphony of style.