In 2015, I published a post about Emil “Izzy Sher,” a Berkeley wire and metal worker who died in 1999. His son Zalman was selling some of Izzy’s work in his Virginia Street backyard.
Contrary to widespread opinion, Berkeley-as-Rebel was not born with the Free Speech Movement in 1964 or even the HUAC demonstrations in 1960. Our non-conformist heritage stretches back to the early 20th century. In the 1950s, we had our poets and musicians and bookstores and guest appearances by Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac. And we had Izzy and Edith Sher.
In 1954, Izzy Sher opened The Wire Shop on Bonita. He later worked out of his house at 1312 Virginia Street. In the backyard, he created a soaring steel jungle, which Renny Pritikin, Chief Curator of the San Francisco Contemporary Jewish Museum, described as “a kind of overwhelming garden of junked-up, rusting dreams.”
Zalman Is selling off more pieces. They are stunning metal work, and their pedigree is as Bohemian Quirky as Berkeley gets. The pieces are heavy. Some are very heavy. Zalman doesn’t offer delivery. Except he might in Berkeley, off the truck to the curb only..
The pieces are numbered here. Some are named. All are priced. If you are interested, call Zalman at 510-812-9878. It’s his work number – don’t be confused – leave a message.
Chinese characters, admittedly abstract, give this piece its name.
This chair was made for Lou Gottlieb, the bass player and comic lead of the folk trio the Limeliters. He was a tall man. When Gottlieb’s widow Lee “Dolly” Hartz cleared out of their El Cerrito home, she sent the chair back to Sher.
The photos are, as always, very good. In person, though, these pieces speak even more loudly. There is something about the rust. It is often associated with neglect, disappointments, depression or old age. Not for me. For me, it is a natural progression, time like an ever-rolling stream flowing by.
I could imagine #20 with pots of plants on it, but then the orange clock vine or whatever you have in your pot will drape over and down and take over the piece and you won’t see the lines under it and so – I don’t know. I know about the clock vine, just not about whether my idea would work.
I thrill in the image of Izzy Sher in the 1950s, Bohemian and creative and doing what he wanted to do in the years before the Big Changes. I am nostalgic for a time I didn’t know. The investigators who published results of a study in an article in the journal Psychological Sciences, called it the “cascading reminiscence bump.” That’s a little wordy for me. I am drawn to that Berkeley, a Berkeley where the city’s character and charm were as important as anything. It is a time and set of values that we should not forget. Yes, in my Berkeley, style matters. When we see the paving trucks coming, we would be well-served to remember paradise.
I asked my friend about the post. He wanted to debate rust songs – “Rust Never Sleeps” by Neil Young or “Diamonds and Rust” by Joan Baez. I did not want to engage in a debate on the question, but agreed that we could talk about it after he told me what he thought of the pieces for sale.