Wally Hedrick American, 1928-2003


A Korean War veteran Hedrick (b. 1928 Pasadena - d. 2003 Bodega Bay, United States) was an anti-establishment artist protesting the Korean and Cold War, mass media, the art market, and consumer culture. He was one of the first American artists to publicly denounce US intervention in South Vietnam with his series of monotone Black Paintings and Flag paintings in 1953 on which were written cutting slogans such as 'Burn Me!' and 'Peace' preceding Jasper Johns. Hedrick was a key figure in the San Francisco Beat scene, close friends with Jerry Garcia of The Grateful Dead who had been taught by Hedrick at the San Francisco Art Institute. To Garcia, Hedrick was a genuine beatnik. "Wally taught me that art is not only something you do, but something you are." In 1954, Hedrick co-founded The Six Gallery in San Francisco (a crucial focal point for Californian counterculture) where his friend Allen Ginsberg first read his seminal poem Howl.


The spontaneous exhibitions and performance events there were the precursors of the 'Happenings' of the 1960s. Hedrick was an early action painter, employed at the 'beatnik' Vesuvio Cafe, to sit in the window to create improvisational drawings and paintings while jazz musicians performed. Between 1952 and 1958 Hedrick began his kinetic junk assemblage and beer can sculptures, becoming a key figure in Junk art. Later in his life, he was a recognised forerunner in Happenings, Conceptual Art and Pop Art.


Hedrick exhibited in the 1959 Sixteen Americans show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, NY with Jasper Johns, Ellsworth Kelly, Robert Rauschenberg, and Robert Mallary and in 1995 at the Whitney Museum of American Art's, Beat Culture and the New America: 1950-1965. His work resides in public collections which include The Smithsonian Institution, The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and The M. H. de Young Memorial Museum.