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Charles Brittin papers, 1914-2009 (bulk 1950-1979)

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Brittin (Charles) Papers

Scope and Content of Collection

The archive comprises 92 linear feet of visual and printed material featuring much of Brittin's artistically and historically important photographic work. Included are vintage and contemporary black-and-white prints, negatives, slides, contact sheets, and modern prints documenting both the Los Angeles art scene and social and political movements from the 1950s to the 1970s.

The artist files in Series I form the bulk of the archive and contain photographs of underground Los Angeles artists, namely Wallace Berman and his Ferus Gallery coterie, including Bob Alexander, George Herms, Walter Hopps, Artie Richer, John Altoon, Zack and Beverly Walsh, John Reed, and Dean Stockwell. The series also includes 1950s- and 1960s-era images of performance artists, poets and photographers such as Instant Theater's Rachel Rosenthal, poets Kenneth Patchen and Michael McClure, and photographer Edmund Teske, as well as images of musicians, musical venues, and performances in Los Angeles. In addition to photographs, the series contains various mail art, printed ephemera, collage, and assemblage work created by many of these artists, including Brittin himself. Related papers, publications and posters also accompany some of the files.

Also in this series are museum and gallery files on the Los Angeles art scene, particularly Brittin's collection of photographs and papers of the Ferus and Semina galleries. Included in these files are photographs of art and exhibitions, including Berman's first show as well as casual shots of artists at the Ferus alley. (For photographs of Wallace Berman's arrest at Ferus Gallery and subsequent trial, see Berman files in Series I.A.) The series also contains a variety of exhibition ephemera and posters for artists who exhibited at Ferus Gallery, such as Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and Josef Albers.

Berman's move to Larkspur, California as result of his arrest at the Ferus Gallery led to the creation of the Semina Gallery, where Brittin had his first exhibition of photographic works. Series I contains Brittin's documentation of this one-day exhibition and also includes images of the Berman family home as well as other papers related to Berman's Semina issues. Other personal works by Brittin featured prominently in Series I are his photographs of sites in old Los Angeles and Venice that are no longer extant.

Brittin's documentation of the civil rights movement and other political demonstrations and events are grouped into five sections in Series II: civil rights, feminism, labor protests, Vietnam War protests, and politics. A large portion of civil rights photographs are of CORE marches addressing topics such as police brutality, education, housing, and job discrimination. Demonstrations by other groups including the Non-Violent Action Committee (N-VAC) and United Civil Rights Council (UCRC) are also included in this section. A small portion of Series II comprises photos, papers and publications on feminist and Chicano and labor demonstrations.

A significant amount of anti-war material is included in Series II. From 1965 to 1975, Brittin captured numerous protest demonstrations against the Vietnam War, namely the 1967 protests at Century City and The Artists' Tower of Protest project -- a three-month art installation which served as a platform for artists' opposition to the war (see Series I.A.). Brittin also documented various political protests and events organized by groups such as the Black Panther Party, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), and the Peace and Freedom Party (PFP). Accompanying both the anti-war and political photographs are various related publications, posters, ephemera, correspondence, clippings, and other papers. Aside from his photographic works, Brittin also designed graphics that were used as posters, flyers or invitations for social and political demonstrations.

Brittin's interest in revolutionary movements is further shown by the archive's collection of vintage and reprinted political posters that are also in Series II. Accompanying these posters are various communist and socialist publications and ephemera as well as papers on political film centers such as the Los Angeles Newsreel.

More of Brittin's counterculture material can be found in Series III Collections. Brittin's erotica collection forms the bulk of the series and includes papers, publications, and commercial photographs as well as Brittin's own work. Also featured is a small group of advertisements and pamphlets on health, drugs, and spiritual movements. Among other collections in this series are Brittin's theater/film papers, film stills, and ephemera, including his membership in the Hollywood Film Society and materials on Orson Welles.

Series IV contains images of Brittin's personal life from the 1950s to his later years. The series contains photographs of family and friends including many portraits of women, travels with his wife Barbara, and scenes of everyday life. Included are both black-and-white and color prints, Polaroid prints, contact sheets, negatives, and slides.

Lastly, Series V comprises a small number of miscellaneous and unidentified items found in the archive. Included are papers such as exhibition ephemera and assorted clippings, artworks by unidentified artists, posters, and publications. Another portion of the series features Brittin's personal belongings such as photography accessories, music CDs, a bracelet, and pen nibs.

In 2012, additional materials were received from Brittin's estate and integrated into the archive. These materials can be found in box 83-134* and flatfile folder 8**-9**.


Arranged in five series:
Series I. Los Angeles art scene, circa 1939-2009 (bulk 1950-1979);
Series II. Political movements and protests, 1926-2004 (bulk 1960-1979);
Series III. Collections, 1937-2005 (bulk 1960s), undated;
Series IV. Personal photographs, 1950s-2000s;
Series V. Miscellaneous items, 1914, 1943-2005, undated, undated.

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