Haute Hyphenate: Herb Alpert’s Black Totems

herb alpert

You may know him best as a trumpeter (“Tijuana Taxi”). You may know him best as a music industry mogul (A&M Records, Almo publishing). You may even know him best as your neighbor. But Herb Alpert is also an accomplished visual artist.

Don’t take my word for it, though. See for yourself, if you haven’t yet, in his current show, Black Totems, at the Ace Gallery. But don’t wait – on display since February, the show is finally scheduled to come down on August 28.

For these unusual works, Alpert says he was inspired by the totems of the Pacific Northwest native tribes Haida, Tlingit and Kwakiutl, who were known to carve poles from cedars up to 40 feet high. Of course, Ancient Egyptian obelisks are also an influence, and critics have noted a debt – by design or not – to early 20th century sculptors such as Brancusi, Bourgeois and Giacometti.

Alpert’s process is also unusual, first modeling in wet clay up to 36” high, then recreating in versions 12 to 20 feet high, casting those in bronze, then adding the black patina. The effect is otherworldly, but also humanist, earthbound and suggestively narrative at once.

Incidently, Alpert and his wife Lani Hall released a new album just last year, entitled Anything Goes. Alpert has sold over 70 million albums worldwise in his career. Musical accomplishments include five number one hits, twenty-eight albums on the Billboard charts, eight Grammy Awards, fourteen Platinum albums and fifteen Gold albums.

Recently, the multi-award winning legend donated $30 million to University of California, Los Angeles to form and endow the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music as part of the restructured UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture. He’s also given $24 million to CalArts for its music curricula

Ace Gallery is located at 9430 Wilshire Boulevard, Beverly Hills, 310.858.9090