The Librarian
George Herms (American, 1935-)
Not on View

Equal parts alchemist, assemblage artist, and purveyor of all things miasmic, George Herms emerged on the Los Angeles art scene in 1955, at the young age of 20. In the same circle as other Beat generation artists and poets who lived in the bohemian enclave of Topanga Canyon, he soon found his place among his comrades in counterculture. Within this free-spirited environment, they were able to challenge the values of the art world while celebrating a love for society’s cast-off common objects.

Here, The Librarian strains to stand up and maintain an erect posture under decayed books that have become unreadable. A bell hangs from an appendage, and tomes from various literary genres struggle to cling together and remain legible. In this struggle, The Librarian serves as homage to the small-town librarian.

Herms’s art stands as an excellent counterpoint to the American postwar desire for the newest and latest consumer goods. His ambiguous artworks remind us that emotional attachments, while ephemeral, are strong bonds that are hard to break.


  • Artist Name: George Herms (American, 1935-)
  • Title: The Librarian
  • Date: 1960
  • Medium: Assemblage: wood box, papers, books, loving cup, and painted stool
  • Dimensions: 57 x 63 x 21 in. (144.8 x 160 x 53.3 cm)
  • Credit Line: Norton Simon Museum, Gift of Molly Barnes
  • Accession Number: P.1969.091
  • Copyright: © 2008 George Herms

Object Information

Molly Barnes, Gift 1969/10/24 to;
Pasadena Art Museum, Pasadena, 1969-1975;
Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena.

Fifty California Artists

  • Whitney Museum of American Art, 1962-10-23 to 1962-12-02
  • Poets of the Cities New York and San Francisco 1950-1965,no. 63 p. 135
  • Gleason, Mat, Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula,
  • Peabody, Rebecca, et al., Pacific Standard Time: Los Angeles Art, 1945-1980,2011, Fig. 2-25 p. 92
  • Phillips, Lisa, The American Century: Art and Culture 1950-2000,no. 95 pp. 71-72
  • Solnit, Rebecca, Secret Exhibition: Six California Artists of the Cold War Era, p. 84
  • George Herms, George Herms: The River Book,2014, p. 37
  • Grady, John, Busting Down All Art Walls: The Beats at the Whitney,
  • American Libraries, p. 607
  • Grady, John, Sun Storm Fine Art Magazine,
  • Albright, Thomas, Art in the San Francisco Bay Area, 1945-1980,fig. 88 p. 103
  • Pasadena Art Museum, Recent Acquisitions 1969,no. 27 p. 21
  • Dunham, Judith, Art Week, p. 2
  • George Herms, Selected Works 1960-1972,no. 3
  • Armory Center for the Arts/Art Center College of Design, Radical Past: Contemporary Art & Music in Pasadena, 1960-1974, p. 42, 106-107
  • Gerdts, William, Patricia Trenton, Susan Landauer, The Not-So Still Life: A Century of California Painting and Sculpture,fig. 93 pp. 105-106
  • Butterfield, Jan, The Art Gallery Magazine, p. 59
  • Philips, Lisa, Beat Culture and the New America, 1950-1965, p. 98
  • O'L. Higgins, Shaun; Colleen Striegel, and Garry Apgar, The Newspaper in Contemporary Art: Image, Icon, Muse and Medium,plate 97 p. 155
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Additional Artwork by Artist

Coolest Creosote George Herms 1962
For the Corner Pass George Herms 1962
The Book of Perfection George Herms 1994

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