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Burt Shonberg Timeline

Burt Shonberg (left) and folk singer Doug Myres, at the Cafe Frankenstein in Laguna Beach California circa 1958 - 1962

March 30, 1933 – Burt Shonberg is born in Revere, MA.

1950-52 – He attends the Boston Institute of Fine Arts for two years.

1953-55 – Army service. Paints murals in the mess halls and some early drawings and watercolors in the Surrealist style.

1956 – Moves to California and continues studies at the Los Angeles Art Center. Meets sci-fi/ horror movie memorabilia collector (and publisher of “Famous Monsters of Filmland” magazine) Forrest J. Ackerman who becomes his agent/manager.

1957 – Meets George Clayton Johnson (later writer of “Logan’s Run” and episodes of “Star Trek” and “The Twilight Zone”) and has first LSD experience.

1958 – Begins relationship with artist/occultist Marjorie Cameron. Possible exposure to peyote through her. Also opens the Cafe Frankenstein, a beatnik coffeehouse in Laguna Beach, CA, with Johnson and Doug Myres.

exterior of Cafe Frankenstein, photograph by Doris I. Walker, May 1961.
Photograph of artwork by Burt Shonberg mounted outside of Cafe Frankenstein, unknown photographer.

1959 – Ends relationship with Cameron.

1960 – Sells Cafe Frankenstein to Michael Schley and Connie Vining. Begins collaboration with Roger Corman and art director Daniel Haller on “The House of Usher” film. Later enlists in LSD experiments of Dr. Oscar Janiger at University of California Irvine.

Still from Roger Corman's 1960 film "The House of Usher" staring Vincent Price. Painting by Burt Shonberg of the house. The painting's whereabouts are unknown.
detail of one of the paintings Burt made of "The House of Usher" source: dangerous minds
Still from Roger Corman's 1960 film "The House of Usher" staring Vincent Price. Painting by Burt Shonberg of the house. The painting's whereabouts are unknown.
Still from Roger Corman's 1960 film "The House of Usher" staring Vincent Price. Painting by Burt Shonberg.
Still from Roger Corman's 1960 film "The House of Usher" staring Vincent Price. Painting by Burt Shonberg.
Still from Roger Corman's 1960 film "The House of Usher" staring Vincent Price. Painting by Burt Shonberg.
Detail of “Consummations Devoutly to be Wished” by  Burt Shonberg, produced for the Roger Corman Film "Premature Burial" 1962

1961 – Continues own experiments with psychedelics which leads to invention of Psychedelic Art genre.

1964-1965 – Travels to Ibiza with girlfriend/artist Valerie Porter. She begins a relationship with Pablo Picasso while there. Also introduces Shonberg to both Picasso and Salvador Dali.

1965 – Mounts first-ever exhibition of Psychedelic Art in tandem with painter Isaac Abrams at the CODA Gallery in the East Village (NYC).

photograph courtesy of Marshall Berle

1967 – Only solo exhibition of his artwork, “This ARE Burt Shonberg” at Gallery Contemporary at 631 N. La Cienega Blvd, mounted by George Greif.

Flyer for the George Grief / Burt Shonberg exhibtion "This ARE Burt Shonberg" in Los Angeles 1967, courtesy of Marshall Berle.

The text on the flyer reads:

This ARE Burt Shonberg

Impressionist Realist Surrealist. Experimentalist Abstractionist Magicalist Psychedelist Mystic

The artist is all these in part - but much more in total. His talent is larger than the sum of its separate components. For the first major public showing of this fresh new brush on the contemporary scene,

A selection of paintings reflecting Shonberg’s artistic and spiritual evolution has been assembled.

:This ARE Burt Shonberg” Exhibition open April 4 at theGallery Contemporary, 631 North Le Ciernega Blvd.

The exhibit spans the last three years of Shonberg’s career, covering his Ibiza and recent Los Angeles periods which have produced some of his most provocative and imaginative works.

Burt Shonberg liked to draw when he was a boy. His serious interest in art as a life work began in his early 20’s. Shonberg was born in Boston on March 30, 1933. He grew up in Revere Massachusetts and, after Elementary and high school, attended the Boston School of the Museum of Fine Arts for two years. He went into the army in 1953 and during his two years of service his art efforts consisted of mess hall murals, posters and technical illustrations.

Shonberg studied for a year at the Art Center in Los Angeles under a G.I. grant following his Army discharge, taking classes in advertising design and earning a precarious living as a free lance commercial artist. In the meantime his involvement in creative painting deepened and devotion to truth in art as he sais it became the wherefore and whereof of his whole being. The quest for graphic expressions of his inner visions and mystic images led him to beautiful Ibiza in Spain’s Balearic Islands and in exotic North Africa. Upon his return he painted for a short period in Greenwich Village in New York before returning to LosAngeles to make his artistic home.

Experimentation also became part of his conscious search for artistic reality and he participated in an LSD psychedelic project conducted by a UCLA researcher with a group of artists and writers.

A small number f his paintings and drawings were executed as part if his hallucinogenic experiences. He concludes: “LSD and other mind-expanding drugs are not a way of painting, but certain experiences in time and space which have been achieved can become subjects for the artist” Artistic truth has many faces and Burt Shonberg wants to know and reveal as many of them as he possibly can.

Right side:

THIS IS YOUR INVITATION TO A SIGNIFICANT ART EVENT - the first major public exhibition of a new and extraordinary painting talent. To those who have privately seen his work, Burt Shonberg is an exciting discovery - a truly singular artist who combines a magical realism with a living surrealism in a unique manner that escapes popular cataloguing.

Photo captions:

The painter - artist Burt Shonberg shown beside his “16” A 16 panel painting done with mixed media on canvas. It was painted in Ibiza Spain.

Sculpture - heroic size head of Burt Shonberg in terra cotta was executed by sculptor Valerie Porter shown here she’s possesses a number of Shonberg paintings.

Premiere of “This ARE Burt Shonberg” Exhibtion will be Tuesday April 4, from 5 to 9 p.m. at the Gallery Contemporary, 631 North La Cienega Boulevard. You and your friends are cordially invited to share this novel art experience.

Regular exhibit hours will be Thursday thru Saturday 12 to 5 p.m. Monday 8 to 10pm and by appointment. Closed Sunday. 652 1522

list of works for the George Grief / Burt Shonberg exhibtion "This ARE Burt Shonberg" in Los Angeles 1967, courtesy of Marshall Berle.
Verso of flyer for 1967 exhibtion "“This ARE Burt Shonberg”. Courtesy Richard Levine.
Flyer for the George Grief / Burt Shonberg exhibtion in Los Angeles 1967, courtesy of Marshall Berle.
Article on "This ARE Burt Shonberg" exhibtion for LA Times 1967. Full article with transcription.

1969-1976 – Designs album covers for the bands like the Curtis Brothers, Love, and Spirit, the latter of whom the artist befriends via his student and sometimes-patron Marshall Berle. (Berle was managing Spirit and its main songwriter Randy California at the time; later managed Van Halen.)

Burt Shonberg, Randy California of Spirit and Marshall Berle, photo courtesy of Marshall Berle

1977 – Shonberg dies at age 44 in Seal Beach, CA, no descendants.

2012 – Artist Wendy All recreates Shonberg’s Cafe Frankenstein edifice and murals in a diorama for San Diego ComicFest.

2014 – Marshall Berle, friend of the artist (and collector of his work), produces “Out Here: A Film About Burt Shonberg.” Trailer is viewable here

2015 – “L.A. Weekly” publishes Brian Chidester’s article “In Search of Burt Shonberg’s Lost 1960s Psychedelic Art” (first major article on the artist’s life and oeuvre).

2017 – Mandrake of Oxford publishes the biography “Out There: The Transcendent Life and Art of Burt Shonberg”.

2018 – Stephen Romano Gallery includes an untitled work by Shonberg from 1964 in the exhibition “Opening the Third Eye.”

2021 – “Beyond the Pleasuredome: The Lost Occult Works of Burt Shonberg” exhibition and catalog curated by Brian Chidester and produced by Stephen Romano Gallery is mounted at the Buckland Museum of Witchcraft and Magick, Cleveland, Ohio. This is the first exhibition of the artist’s works in 54 years. The catalog, the first ever devoted exclusively to Burt Shonberg, includes contributions by Buckland Museum director Steven Intermill, Mineapolis Art Institute curator Robert Cozzolino, Esteamed film director and producer Roger Corman, Historian and documentarian and longtime Shonberg advocate Brian Chidester, and quotes from Marshall Berle and Hampton Fancher. Exhibition producer Stephen Romano writes the acknowledgements.

Exhibition catalog for "Beyond the Pleasuredome: The Lost Occult Works of Burt Shonberg” curated by Brian Chidester at the Buckland Museum of Witchcraft and Magick, Cleveland.