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Full text of "Billy Al Bengston : [exhibition], Los Angeles County museum of art, Lytton Hall, November 26, 1968-January 12, 1969"

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Digitized by the InternerArchive 

in 2009 with funding from 

Los Angeles County IVIuseum of Art 



http://www.archive.org/details/billyalbengstoneOOmont 



Billy Al Bengston 



James Monte 



Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Lytton Hall, November 26, 1968 — January 12, 1969 
Sponsored by the Contemporary Art Council 

Corcoran Gallery — Dupont Center, Washington, D.C. 
Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, B.C. 



Copyright 1968 by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art 

Printed in the United States of America 
Library of Congress Card Number 68-58689 



Billy Al Bengston, 

Drawing by 

DonBachardy, 1967 



I -A^ A 




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Lenders to the exhibition 

L. M. Asher Family, Los Angeles 

Artist Studio, 110 Mildred Ave., Venice 90291 

Mr. and Mrs. Irving Blum, Los Angeles 

Charles Cowles, New York 

Mr. and Mrs. John Denman, Bellevue, Washington 

Mrs. Andrew Fuller, New York 

Dr. and Mrs. Merle S. Glick, Los Angeles 

Mrs. Betty Gold, Newport Beach 

Jackie and Ulf Greber, Beverly Hills 

Sterling Holloway, South Laguna Beach 

Mr. and Mrs. Thomas E. Inch, Pacific Palisades 

Robert W. Irwin, Venice, California 

The Kleiner Foundation, Beverly Hills 

Janie C. Lee, Dallas 

Ed Moses, Santa Monica 

Mr. and Mrs. Richard O'Neill, Los Angeles 

Mr. and Mrs. Robert A. Rowan, Pasadena 

Ed Ruscha, Los Angeles 

Dr. and Mrs. M. L. Sherwood, Beverly Hills 

Laura Lee Stearns, Los Angeles 

Los Angeles County Museum of Art 



Foreword and Acknowledgements 



This exhibition is part of a continuing series of one- and two-man presentations of oulstandinq Cali- 
fornia artists. Peter Voulkos, Edward Kienholz, John Mason, Robert Irwin, Kenneth Price and Wallace 
Herman have been shown here since the opening of the new Museum in April, 1965. 

Billy Al Bengston's presence in Southern California over the past decade has exerted a power- 
fully distinctive force on local art. He has been instrumental in creating a special esthetic look which 
poignantly reflects the style of existence peculiar to Los Angeles, but certainly his influence has not 
been limited to this area. Bengston has inspired artists in many parts of the United States and abroad, 
especially with his successful experimentation using automobile lacquers and spray techniques. This 
retrospective exhibition brings together the artist's works from all phases of his production over the 
past ten years. 

I would like to express my appreciation to James Monte, Assistant Curator of Modern Art, for 
organizing this exhibition, selecting the works, and writing the catalog essay. My thanks go also to 
Mrs. Gail R. Scott, Curatorial Assistant, for her help in all matters of organization, as well as for com- 
piling the bibliography; and to Mrs. Jane Livingston, Assistant Curator of Modern Art, for editing the 
catalog text. Mrs. Betty Asher participated in many phases of the project. I would also like to 
acknowledge Ed Cornachio and the photography staff of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art 
for their cooperation in photographing most of the paintings in the exhibition. A special note of thanks 
goes to Ed Ruscha, well-known Los Angeles artist, for designing this unique catalog, and to Frank 
Gehry for his imaginative installation plan. To the lenders to the exhibition I am especially grateful, 
particularly Sterling HoUoway, who was one of the first and most faithful collectors of Bengston's 
work and whose loans to this exhibition have been so generous. 

Maurice Tuchman 



Billy Al Bengston 



Billy Al Bengston's career began at Manual Arts High School, a vocational train- 
ing school in Los Angeles, which included within its largely industrial arts cur- 
riculum an excellently conceived Fine Arts program. This unique program offered 
by the school afforded students such as Jackson Pollock and Philip Guston as 
well as Bengston the opportunity to develop sophisticated skills within the sec- 
ondary school system. 

For Bengston, graduation from high school and enrollment in college in the 
fall of 1952 was the beginning of a series of misadventures with higher education. 
Dissatisfied with college, Bengston dropped out after a few weeks and found work 
as a displayman in Desmond's Department Store in Los Angeles. In the spring 
of 1953, Bengston left the store and worked throughout the summer season as a 
beach attendant. The opportunity to surf and swim and earn a living as well was 
irresistible for Bengston. An important friendship developed that summer between 
Bengston and the sculptor, Kenneth Price. These two young artists were to be- 
come friends and allies, sharing a common interest in vanguard art and working 
with Peter Voulkos, the sculptor-ceramicist, and a handful of others to produce 
a virtual renaissance in ceramics on the West Coast. 

After two years' attendance at Los Angeles City College from 1953 to 1955, 
Bengston enrolled in the fall of 1955 at the California College of Arts and Crafts 
in Oakland, California. Two artists on the faculty, Richard Diebenkorn and Sabro 
Hasegawa, were in Bengston's words, "influences on me, with Diebenkorn show- 
ing me how I might physically approach painting and Hasegawa by his example 
as a person and thinker." 

The rewards were rich within the painting faculty and less than fruitful within 
the ceramics department. Bengston, with alarming alacrity, completed a semester's 
course of proposed ceramics problems in two working days and proceeded with 
equal swiftness to deplete the department's stock of clay body. His radical aes- 
thetic, in combination with his already well developed skill, disrupted the pace 
of the department and taxed the faculty to such an extent that they asked him 
to leave. Bengston complied with the request and left both the ceramics depart- 
ment and the school one year after entering. 

In another attempt at art school in the fall of 1956, this time at the Otis Art 
Institute in Los Angeles, he studied with Peter Voulkos. Bengston had at last met 
a ceramics teacher whose enormous creative energy more than matched his own. 
The handful of students who met in Voulkos' class in the basement of the Otis 
Art Institute, at peak periods turned out scores of pots in single sittings. Perhaps 
it was too good to last and he was once again asked to leave school. With his 
departure from art school for the final time Bengston gave up ceramics and con- 
centrated on painting. 

The carry-over from ceramics to painting should not be underestimated 
when one assesses Bengston's art. He has mentioned in conversation the impor- 
tant influence the Raku and Oribe bowl forms had on the subsequent develop- 
ment of his own pottery and painting. The rich and spontaneous surface incident 
so highly prized in these two Japanese bowl forms are carried over in Bengston's 
ceramics as well as paintings. The small, richly textured painting Sunset at Sun- 
set Plaza Drive (lent by Sterling Holloway) is the earliest work in the exhibition 
containing the centered, equal-sided plus or cross marks seen on the earlier 
ceramic surfaces. The potential usefulness of these early signature marks, as the 
artist calls them, did in fact act as a root source for the heart, iris and chevron 



series of paintings which were to follow in the ensuing eleven years. 

It is worthwhile to note that Bengston attended art school after the wave of 
World War II G.I. Bill students had completed their training. The best of these 
students were committed to an expressionist ethos and were, at the onset of 
Bengston's art school training, teachers engaged in revolutionizing art school 
curricula on the West Coast. Bengston was certainly in a position to ascertain 
the implications of the change and was himself a victim of the wrench between 
the conservative teaching element and the radical newcomers. Of the talented 
young artists to emerge in the middle to late nineteen-fifties on the West Coast, 
Bengston was the first to have produced, as a student totally committed to abstract- 
expressionism, a body of work wholly vanguard and yet seemingly outside the 
expressionist ethos. It is difficult to communicate the emotional and intellectual 
temper of the West Coast art world in the late nineteen-fifties; suffice it to say 
that Bengston was labeled a heretic by artists who were attempting to absorb 
the lessons of abstract-expressionism, and was considered a maniacal freak by 
the conservative art establishment in Southern California. His own thoughts in 
1968 about his position as Peck's Bad Boy to both conservative and radical 
camps eight years ago are revealing. "I believed in the lessons of the New York 
artists, particularly de Kooning. That's where 1 came into the picture. What their 
paintings said and what they verbalized was a complete openness, so within that 
openness I began making my own paintings." By "openness" Bengston had in 
mind a series of esthetic breakthroughs so eccentric-appearing to the eyes of the 
California art community that he apparently broke with rules yet to be formulated. 

Bengston generously credits Craig Kauffman's paintings of 1957 as offering 
a clue to how he might proceed. Kauffman's paintings at that time held a solution 
to the then prevalent all-over scattered stroking and troweling of impastoed oil 
pigment. The scattered forms of Still, Pollock, de Kooning, Diebenkorn and Hassel 
Smith were developing into a cliche among younger artists. Kauffman, although 
retaining the loose handling of the older artists, concentrated the intensity of exe- 
cution in the center of the canvas and developed a large, loose biomorphic shape 
which hung with ease and little visual connection to the four sides of the canvas 
support. Bengston had applied strips of clay to vase, cup and bowl shapes which, 
when seen dead on, produced the same centered visual effect. The loose asym- 
metry of Kauffman's pictures, which verged on symmetry by the very nature of 
their centeredness, provided Bengston with a way of proceeding to an even more 
radically symmetrical format. 

In 1958 Bengston first saw the encaustic flags and targets painted in the mid- 
fifties by lasper Johns. These works provided him with a further clue as to how 
a painting could be made and on what level avant-garde art could function out- 
side of wholly loosened all-over abstract configuration. 

In noting Bengston's movement away from an increasingly vitiated expres- 
sionist tradition, it is evident that, as with Craig Kauffman, Edward Kienholz, Ken- 
neth Price and other Southern California artists, a general shift to new materials 
such as lacquers, epoxies and vacuum formed plastics helped clear the path for 
new developments in the look of his art. In Bengston's case, as was true of a 
number of the other local artists, the nature, or core, of his art remained relatively 
unchanged. However, this shift to new materials so radically altered the surfaces 
of these artists' works that at various points in time between the last decade and 
the present moment a terrific feedback occurred which has affected not only the 
skin or surface of their objects, but has radically altered their earlier conceptions 
and ambitions. An intense concern for factual surface verisimilitude, taking forms 
as varied as the apparently mystical color evocations of Robert Irwin, and the 
barbed extirpations from the past and present in the tableaux of Edward Kienholz, 
characterizes the intensely creative circle of which Bengston is a primary member. 

The obsessively idealistic conviction that color, surface quality, and inherent 
material corporeality can carry the entire weight of a total and satisfying art 
experience is posited with a vengeance by Bengston and his colleagues. This posi- 




Vase black, brown, 
white glazed stoneware, 
1957 9%" high 



tion is of course not unique to Southern California artists, but it is not held with 
such overwhelming zeal anywhere else in the world. One of the side issues which 
seems to enforce such an hypothesis is Bengston's, as well as his peers', attitude 
toward experimentation. The concept, held in many quarters throughout the art 
world, that art objects may be experimental in design and fabrication, and that 
subsequent exhibition of the perhaps conceptually clear but fitfully executed 
objects is validated because of their experimental state, is wholly at odds with 
Southern California idealism. Only cold aesthetic cash is fit to be shown within 
the latter terms. A complete assimilation of procedural experiment is required 
of the end product, wherein the concept is turned into as nearly perfect an object 
as possible before it is used, looked at, or considered as art. (Like the advanced 
technology of the aerospace industries, the relationship of the experimental proc- 
ess to the completed object is scrupulously measured, tested and codified before 
the product is considered usable.) 

Bengston considers his paintings as being aesthetically useful in direct pro- 
portion to how physically perfected they are. It follows that he values a state 
of affairs whereby quality is judged by the perfectness of the painted surface, 
much as one admires the look of a carefully engineered industrial tool apart from 
its known function. The sensuously appealing, often pretty surfaces of Bengston's 
pictures are implicitly coupled with a toolmaker's or engineer's, notion about the 
perfectability of the product. At the very heart of Bengston's machine aesthetic, 
humanized by an erotic sweetness, are ideas about what synthetic materials and 
surfaces can and will mean to art and artists. The nineteenth century genre pic- 
turesqueness of wood, brick, clay and stone set against a backdrop of bubbling 
brooks and coiffed greenery will increasingly give way to the picturesqueness 
of Stanley Kubrick's revolving sets in the film 2001. The purist style of artists like 
Ozenfant and Jeanneret appear wistfully sentimental when juxtaposed with the 
hard brilliance of Bengston's synthetic lacquer surfaces. If the early moderns did 
attempt to foresee the future look of art, industrial objects and architecture, it was 
with an ingenuously Utopian assumption that art would by extension alter man's 
environment This ideal must have seemed attainable to artists working in the 
first two or three decades of this century. That the perversity of events since that 
time has rendered their vision partially or wholly bankrupt has had its effect on 
Los Angeles artists, and particularly on Bengston (the literary community kvetches 
about this state of affairs while Bengston uses it as subject matter). 

In the endeavor to forge his own artistic identity, Bengston appropriated a 
closed, individual portfolio of emblems which has in the past included the cross, 
the heart, the iris, and, most familiarly, the stacked chevron. The only series of 
mature works not incorporating these images is a body of work completed in 
1961 depicting various components of a B.S.A. motorcycle, culminating in a full 
portrait of a B.S.A. entitled Skinny's 21 (lent by Dr. and Mrs. Merle S. Glick). 

Bengston's ubiquitous emblem usually occupies a fraction of the entire pic- 
ture at the center, and is either immersed within lacquered depths, floats decal- 
like atop the lacquer, or is differentiated from its surroundings by the intrusion 
of oil paint, contrasting with the polished field. He uses every manner of carefully 
laid brush strokes in combination with smooth spray-gun washes of color, topped 
with coats of clear lacquer to produce incredibly rich and lustrous surfaces. The 
emblem motif is often centered in a field which is itself a complex sign. (I refer 
literally to sign, in the sense that applies to advertising goods or services. Sign is 
perhaps too pierfunctory a word to describe a visual phenomenon which amounts 
virtually to ^n .American totemic fetish.) 

Bengston's appropriation of a very special sign imagery offers a number of 
clues to his working methods and his aesthetic decisions. He uses layers of sign 
systems within which he places his emblems. For instance, a work such as Busby, 
1963, is inspired by the type of image created at least forty years ago by manu- 
facturers of pin-ball machines. Chaney (lent by Sterling Holloway), of 1962, seems 
to be primarily insoired by the theatre marquee sign associated with movie 



palaces and, in their most sumptuous form, with Nevada gambling casinos. It 
should be understood that Bengston does not literally copy specific signs, but 
rather improvises on folk design devices. Generally he favors primitive and 
usually symmetrical layouts, with the various borders and design motifs repeated 
with an equalized visual tightness throughout the picture surface. In this way 
the spirit of Bengston's paintings has an affinity to that of Roy Lichtenstein's early 
pop pictures, such as Rofo-broil, in which a certain "dumb" placement of ele- 
ments evokes the Sears, Roebuck sensibility of American mass culture. Unlike 
Lichtenstein and other pop artists, Bengston chooses to keep his pictures in a 
medial domain between abstract art and pop figuration, with the exception of 
the serialization of the B.S.A. motorcycle. In choosing to remain outside both 
pop orthodoxy and current abstract art, Bengston turned instead to a lexicon of 
forms which are basically abstract, but which, in juxtaposition, remind one of the 
bizarre visual material which foists goods and services on the urban proletariat. 
One can only add that life in Southern California, where there exists a stupefying 
glut of data with which to work, is perfectly suited for Bengston's erotic conun- 
drums. 

Unlike the earlier cross and later chevron series, the Dracula paintings thrust 
themselves on the viewer with a smothering sweetness. The central emblem in 
these works appears to be a biomorphized variant of the common Iris flower. The 
meanings of the word Iris in both French and Latin (the goddess, the rainbow, a 
sweet smelling plant) give further credence to a misreading of the motif. In these 
paintings the saccharine color, carefully adjusted hue against hue, recalls what 
might be a poetic combination of the meanings of the word Iris in three languages. 
What is seemingly true is actually false in the Iris pictures; the fact is that Beng- 
ston has fashioned the motif from the kitsch metaphysics used by Hollywood 
scenario writers to propel the Transylvanian Count Dracula from bat to human, 
as seen in the motion picture. Count Dracula. Bengston's pseudo-Iris form is a 
depiction of the moment in which the bat dissolves in space and a flashing bio- 
morphic form replaces it before the appearance of the dreaded count materializes 
on the motion picture screen. The iconographic overtones of the Dracula series 
are not present in the Heart or Valentine paintings, the Chevron paintings, or the 
Canto Indento series. 

As Bengston proceeded from the first of the Dracula series (Count Dracula I, 
lent by Mr. and Mrs. Robert Rowan) to the last, it is evident that the transmogrifica- 
tion of form is a personal interpretation of a fragment of public property, i.e., a 
popular movie. Each of the later series of paintings is created in the same manner 
with one difference: namely, the later motifs are extremely popular symbols 
which intrude on the consciousness of society as naturally as a mountain or a 
vanilla ice cream cone. The relative obscurity of the Dracula symbol contrasts 
sharply with the ultra-familiar chevron and valentine symbols. 

Perhaps the most difficult aspect of Bengston's oeuvre is that the pictures 
themselves refuse to become either wholly abstract or wholly figurative. The 
difficulty, of course, exists in the mind of the viewer and not in the paintings 
themselves. A first viewing of a body of Bengston's work is puzzling because one 
is astounded at the richness of their brushed, lacquered and polished surfaces. 
When viewing a picture such as Big Duke (lent by Sterling Holloway) for exam- 
ple, a deeper look reveals a chevron embedded within the rich color. A puzzling 
interval ensues — one questions the apparent intrusion of an emblematic device 
floating freely within or over the lacauered depths of color. The mind associates 
the chevron with a military rank, the heart with a valentine or a religious symbol 
stripped of thorny encumbrances. It is virtually impossible to suppress the im- 
pulse to read the emblems. 

The disingenuousness of Bengston's emblems is accounted for by two fac- 
tors. The first of these is a studied irony about the very nature of the emblem as 
a vehicle which embodies an idea. In other words, if a viewer chooses to believe 
that the heart shape represents an upbeat manifestation of the idea of a bleeding 



heart, he is wrong. Bengston's emblems are not there to be read. The second 
attribute consists of the kind of mass disingenuousness which occurs in con- 
temporary advertising and graphic design. The ad agency uses emblems to sell 
products; the theory being that a significant emblem equals a significant product. 
Bengston uses the emblem as a peg on -which he hangs his aesthetic hat. It has 
further use as a personal logo, trademark and symbol of himself. As Bengston 
explains, he need not sign his pictures since they are signed literally and figura- 
tively on a multiplicity of levels. 

In exploring the nature of Bengston's emblems, other issues emerge. In the 
advertising system, the emblem exists as a symbol for desirability and prestige, 
a cycle which terminates when the emblem becomes the actual product the 
advertiser wishes the customer to buy. The buyer has bought his notion of the 
product as well as the object itself. Bengston seemingly puns on the whole sys- 
tem. The sensuously appealing object (painting) contains a large, centered and 
baffling trademark (emblem) which instead of hinting at or suggesting a brilliant 
product, perversely calls attention to its enigmatically dumb self. 

In the Canto Indento series, Bengston's audacity is seen in extremis. In this, 
his most recent series of works, the familiar supports of either canvas on stretcher 
bars or cradled sheets of pressed wood are dispensed with in favor simply of 
thin sheets of aluminum. Bengston begins working on these Dentos by sculptur- 
ing the metal — hammering, folding and crumpling it until the appropriate sur- 
face incident is achieved. Masses of shiny wrinkles create a play of reflected 
light, while occasionally the surface is actually punctured. Bengston then pro- 
ceeds as in the past with priming the metal. Templates are cut to mask areas 
where overspray is not desired and masking tape is used to isolate specific areas. 
Coats of synthetic automobile lacquer are added one upon the other until a lus- 
trous and variegated surface is achieved. The spectator is forced to read the 
shiny highlights and perforations as an integral part of the total design in spite 
of the fact that the actual surfaces appear, disappear and are damaged. Neither 
the flayed surfaces of a de Kooning painting nor the battered auto remnants of a 
John Chamberlain sculpture prepare the viewer for the sinking of the senses 
which accompanies a first viewing of a Bengston Dento. Even after repeated 
viewings, there remains a large residue of pathos which illuminates the very 
center of the visual experience. 

Perhaps the pathos can be explained by a nearly inadmissible coupling of 
painterly pride and willful destruction. The traditional role of the art object as a 
culmination of noble aims is called into question by the Canto Indento series. 
The unique history of each work is synthetically extended in time by a simul- 
taneous reading of conception, destruction and creation. The poignancy of the 
works is lessened only slightly when the viewer is made to realize that the entire 
process was a willed decision. 

The malevolent nature of Bengston's art is couched in boudoir color and 
inherently eccentric form. Bengston suppresses a tendency toward the overt 
depiction of malignancy and instead metes out the emotive force carefully, serial- 
izes it, sets restrictive limits on its use and in other ways regulates it. By engineer- 
ing or manipulating the uses to which psychic malevolence is used in art, by 
juxtaposing it with humor or playfulness, the artist is able to domesticate or at 
least sublimate this virulence to a great degree. The pathos of Bengston's Canto 
Indento works lies in the fact that suddenly the artist could not build a picture 
with rage, but instead felt compelled first to inflict the act of violence on the pic- 
ture, and then to proceed with the creative act. The sudden unmasking or un- 
leashing of such willfullness is disarming. As one grows accustomed to the 
capriciousness of ounctures and dents on the surface of the pictures, it becomes 
apparent (especially in the latest Dentos) that Bengston is spraying color with 
increased looseness, thereby equalizing the applied design and configuration 
of the painted surface. 

lAMES MONTE 



Catalog of Works 



1. Untitled Collage 1958 

paper, tape, watercolor, glass, wood 

18%" X 16" 

Lent by Artist Studio, Venice, California 

2. Sunset at Sunset Plaza Drive about 1959 
oil on canvas 

17" X 131/a" 

Lent by Sterling HoUoway, South Laguna Beach 

3. Brigitle 1959 
oil on canvas 
17" X 13" 

Lent by Mr. and Mrs. Irving Blum, Los Angeles 

4. Kim 1960 

oil on canvas 
10'/4"x lO'A" 
Lent by Sterling Holloway, South Laguna Beach 

5. Sofia 1960 
oil on canvas 
21"x21" 

Lent by Artist Studio, Venice, California 

6. Mae 1959 
watercolor on paper 
32" X 231/2" 

Lent by Artist Studio, Venice, California 

7. Ingrid 1960 
oil on canvas 
15" X 13" 

Lent by Robert W. Irwin. Venice, California 

8. Ava 1960 

oil on canvas 

15" X 13" 

Lent by the Kleiner Foundation, Beverly Hills 

9. Count Dracula at the Chessboard 1960 
oil on canvas 

18" X 16" 

Lent by the L; M. Asher Family, Los Angeles 

10. Count Dracula I 1960 
oil on canvas 

48" x48" 

Lent by Mr. and Mrs. Robert A. Rowan, Pasadena 

1 1 . Count Dracula II 1960 
oil on canvas 
48"x48" 

Lent by Sterling Holloway, South Laguna Beach 

12. Count Dracula III 1962 

oil on canvas 

42"x42" 

Lent by Mrs. Betty Gold, Newport Beach 



13. Big Duke 1960 

magna, lacquer on masonite 

48"x48" 

Lent by Sterling Holloway, South Laguna Beach 

14. Elvis 1961 

polymer, lacquer on masonite 

24"x24" 

Lent by Robert W. Irwin, Venice, California 

15. Tyrone 1961 

lacquer, oil on masonite 

24"x24" 

Lent by Artist Studio, Venice, California 

16. Kato 1961 

oil, polymer, lacquer on masonite 

48"x48" 

Lent by Artist Studio, Venice, California 

17. Belle Star 1961 

oil, polymer, lacquer on masonite 

48"x46'/2" 

Lent by Artist Studio, Venice, California 

18. Zachary 1961 

oil, polymer, lacquer on masonite 

72" x72" 

Lent by Artist Studio, Venice, California 

19. Lester 1961 

oil, polymer, lacquer on masonite 

48" x46',''2" 

Lent by Mr. and Mrs. John C. Denman, Bellevue, Washington 

20. Clint 1961 

polymer, lacquer on masonite 

48"x46'/2" 

Lent by Artist Studio, Venice, California 

21. Carburetor Floatbowl 1961 

oil on canvas 

42"x40" 

Lent by Artist Studio, Venice, California 

22. Gas Tank and Tachometer II 1961 
oil on canvas 

42"x40" 

Lent by Ed Ruscha, Los Angeles 

23. BSA1961 

oil on canvas 

36" X 34" 

Lent by Dr. and Mrs. Merle S. Glick, Los Angeles 

24. Skinny's21 1961 
oil on canvas 
42"x40" 

Lent by Dr. and Mrs. M. L. Sherwood, Beverly Hills 



25. Bela 1963 

oil, polymer, lacquer on masonite 

62'/2"x48'/2" 

Lent by Ed Moses, Santa Monica 

26. Busby 1963 

oil, polymer, lacquer on masonite 

80"x60" 

Lent by Artist Studio, Venice, California 

27. Boris 1963 

oil, polymer, lacquer on masonite 

62V2"x48V2" 

Lent by Artist Studio, Venice, California 

28. Humphrey 1963 

oil, liquelex, enamel, lacquer on masonite 

80"x60" 

Lent by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 

Contemporary Art Council Funds 

29. Alfalla 1964 

oil, polymer, lacquer on masonite 

46%"x31%" 

Lent by Sterling Holloway, South Laguna Beach 

30. Chaney 1965 

oil, lacquer on masonite 

60"x45'/2" 

Lent by Sterling Holloway, South Laguna Beach 

31. Tubesteak 1965 
lacquer on formica 
37"x28" 

Lent by Artist Studio, Venice, California 

32. Holy Smoke 1966 
polyurethane, lacquer on aluminum 
48"x48" 

Lent by Laura Lee Stearns, Los Angeles 

33. John 1966 

polyurethane, lacquer on aluminum 

34"x31' 

Lent by Sterling Holloway, South Laguna Beach 

34. Little Big Horn 1967 
polyurethane, lacquer on aluminum 
48"x48" 

Lent by Mr. and Mrs. Richard O'Neill, Los Angeles 

35. Angel & The Badman 1967 
polyurethane, lacquer on aluminum 
60"x58" 

Lent by Charles Cowles, New York 

36. Pittsburgh 1967 
polyurethane, lacquer on aluminum 
26" X 25" 

Lent by Artist Studio, Venice, California 



37. Sea Chase 1967 
polyurethane, lacquer on aluminum 
26"x25" 

Lent by Artist Studio, Venice, California 

38. In Old California 1967 
polyurethane, lacquer on aluminum 
18" X 16%" 

Lent by Jackie and Ull Greber, Beverly Hills 

39. The High and The Mighty 1967 
polyurethane, lacquer on aluminum 
60"x58" 

Lent by Artist Studio, Venice, California 

40. Big Jim McLain 1967 
polyurethane, lacquer on aluminum 
60"x58" 

Lent by Janie C. Lee, Dallas 

41. Comanchero 1967 
polyurethane, lacquer on aluminum 
34"x31" 

Lent by Mr. and Mrs. Thomas E. Inch, Pacific Palisades 

42. The Sea Spoiler 1967 
polyurethane, lacquer on aluminum 
60"x58" 

Lent by Artist Studio, Venice, California 

43. Shepherd of the Hills 1968 

polyester resin, lacquer on aluminum 

12" X 111/4" 

Lent by Artist Studio, Venice, California 

44. Lady From Louisiana 1968 
polyester resin, lacquer on aluminum 
12"xll'/4" 

Lent by Mrs. Andrew Fuller, New York 

45. Halari 1968 

polyester resin, Incquer on aluminum 

87"x77" 

Lent by the Kleiner Foundation, Beverly Hills 

46. Three Faces West 1958 

polyester resin, lacquer on aluminum 

87"x77" 

Lent by Artist Studio, Venice, California 




1. Untitled Collage 1958 

paper, tape, watercolor, glass, wood 

18'/8" X 16" 

Lent by Artist Studio, Venice, California 




2. Sunset at Sunset Plaza Drive about 1959 

oil on canvas 

17" X 131/8" 

Lent by Sterling Holloway, South Laguna Beach 




3. Brigilte 1959 
oil on canvas 
17"xl3" 
Lent by Mr. and Mrs. Irving Blum, Los Angeles 




4. Kim 1960 
oil on canvas 
101/4" X lO'A" 
Lent by Sterling HoUoway, South Laguna Beach 





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5. Sofia 1960 
oil on canvas 
21"x21" 
Lent by Artist Studio, Venice, California 




6. Mae 1959 

watercolor on paper 

32" X 231/2" 

Lent by Artist Studio, Venice, California 




7. Ingrid 1960 
oil on canvas 
15" X 13" 

Lent by Robert W. Irwin, Venice, California 




Ava 1960 

oil on canvas 

15" X 13" 

Lent by the Kleiner Foundation, Beverly Hills 



9. Count Dracula at the Chessboard 1960 
oil on canvas 
18"xl6" 
Lent by the L. M. Asher Family, Los Angeles 



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10. Count Dracula I 1960 

oil on canvas 

48"x48" 

Lent by Mr. and Mrs. Robert A. Rowan, Pasadena 



Count Dracula II 1960 

oil on canvas 

48"x48" 

Lent by Sterling Holloway, 

South Laguna Beach 





12. Count Dracula III 1962 

oil on canvas 

42" X 42" 

Lent by Mrs. Betty Gold, Newport BeOch 



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13. Big Duke 1960 

magna, lacquer on masonite 

48" x48" 

Lent by Sterling Holloway, South Laguna Beach 




14. Elvis 1961 

polymer, lacquer on masonite 

24" x24" 

Lent by Robert W. Irwin, Venice, California 





15. Tyrone 1961 

lacquer, oil on masonite 

24" x24" 

Lent by Artist Studio, Venice, California 




16. Kato 1961 

oil, polymer, lacquer on masonite 

48" X 48" 

Lent by Artist Studio, Venice, California 






17. Belle Star 1961 

oil, polymer, lacquer on masonite 

48" X 461/2" 

Lent by Artist Studio, Venice, California 



18. Zachary 1961 

oil, polymer, lacquer 
on masonite 72" x 72" 
Lent by Artist Studio, 
Venice, California 



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19. Lester 1961 

oil, polymer, lacquer on masonite 

48" X46V2" 

Lent by Mr. and Mrs. John C. Denman, Bellevue, Washington 




20. Clint 1961 

polymer, lacquer on masonite 

48" X 461/2" 

Lent by Artist Studio, Venice, California 




21. Carburetor FloatbowU 961 

oil on canvas 

42"x40" 

Lent by Artist Studio, Venice, California 




22. Gas Tank and Tachometer II 1961 
oil on canvas 
42" X 40" 

Lent by Ed Ruscha, Los Angeles 




23. BSA 1961 
oil on canvas 

36" x34" 

Lent by Dr. and Mrs. Merle S. Glick, Los Angeles 




24. Skinny's21 1961 
oil on canvas 
42"x40" 
Lent by Dr. and Mrs. M. L. Sherwood, Beverly Hills 






25. Bela 1963 

oil, polymer, lacquer on masonile 

62'/2"x 481/2" 

Lent by Ed Moses, Santa Monica 




26. Busby 1963 

oil, polymer, lacquer on masonite 

80"x60" 

Lent by Artist Studio, Venice, California 




27. Boris 1963 

oil, polymer, lacquer on masonite 

621/2" X 481/2" 

Lent by Artist Studio, Venice, California 



28. Humphrey 1963 

oil, liquetex, enamel, lacquer on masonite 

80"x60" 

Lent by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 

Contemporary Art Council Funds 





29. Alfalfa 1964 

oil, polymer, lacquer on masonite 

46%"x31%" 

Lent by Sterling HoUoway, South Laguna Beach 




30. Chaney 1965 

oil, lacquer on masonite 
60"x45V2'' 

Lent by Sterling HoUoway, South Laguna Beach 




31. Tubesleak 1965 
lacquer on formica 
37"x28" 
Lent by Arlist Studio, Venice, California 




32. Holy Smoke 1966 

polyurethane, lacquer on aluminum 

48"x48" 

Lent by Laura Lee Stearns, Los Angeles 




33. John 1966 

polyurethane, lacquer on aluminum 

34"x31' 

Lent by Sterling HoUoway, South Laguna Beach 




34^ Litlle Big Horn 1967 

polyurethane, lacquer on aluminum 

48" x48" 

Lent by Mr. and Mrs. Richard O'Neill, Los Angeles 




35. Angel & The Badman 1967 

polyurelhane. lacquer on aluminum 

60"x58" 

Lent by Charles Cowles, New York 




36. Pittsburgh 1967 

polyurethane, lacquer on aluminum 

26"x25" 

Lent by Artist Studio, Venice, California 




37. Sea Chase 1967 

polyurethane, lacquer on aluminum 

26"x25" 

Lent by Artist Studio, Venice, California 




In Old California 1967 

polyurethane, lacquer on aluminum 

18" X 16%" 

Lent by Jackie and Ulf Greber, Beverly Hills 




39. The High and The Mighty 1967 

polyurethane, lacquer on aluminum 

60"x58" 

Lent by Artist Studio, Venice. California 




40. Big Jim McLain 1967 

polyurethane, lacquer on aluminum 

60"x58" 

Lent by Janie C. Lee, Dallas 




41. Comanchero 1967 

polyurethane, lacquer on aluminum 

34"x31" 

Lent by Mr. and Mrs. Thomas E. Inch, Pacific Palisades 




42. The Sea Spoiler 1967 

polyurethane. lacquer on aluminum 

60"x58" 

Lent by Artist Studio, Venice, California 




43. Shepherd of the Hills 1968 

polyester resin, lacquer on aluminum 

12" X 11 1/4" 

Lent by Artist Studio, Venice, California 




44. Lady From Louisiana 1968 

polyester resin, lacquer on aluminum 

12"xll'/4" 

Lent by Mrs. Andrew Fuller, New York 



45. Hatari 1968 

polyester resin, lacquer on aluminun 

87"x77" 

Lent by the Kleiner Foundation, 

Beverly Hills 





46. Three Faces West 1968 

polyester resin, lacquer on aiuminum 

87"x77" 

Lent by Artist Studio, Venice, Caliiornia 



Exhibitions 

One-man Exhibitions: 

1958, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, Ferns Gallery, Los Ange- 
les. 
1962 Martha Jackson Gallery, New York. 

1968 San Francisco Museum of Art. "Motel Dracula." 
September 1 — November 2. 

Group Exhibitions : 

1956 Six Gallery, San Francisco. 

1957 Exodus Gallery, San Pedro. "First Annual Los 
Angeles Area Drawing Exhibition." 

Los Angeles County Museum of Art. "Los Ange- 
les Annual." 

1959 Bolles Gallery, San Francisco. "Los Angeles 
Painting." 

Ferus Gallery, Los Angeles. "Edward Kienholz 
and Billy Al Bengston: Collages." 

1962 Pasadena Art Museum, Pasadena, California. 
"Pacific Profile." [Catalog with text by Con- 
stance Perkins.] 

Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, 
California. "Pacific Coast Invitational." 

Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. 
"Fifty California Artists." October 23 — Decem- 
ber 2. [Catalog with text by Lloyd Goodrich and 
George D. Culler.] 

1963 Art Institute of Chicago. "66th American Exhibi- 
tion." January 11-February 10. [Catalog with text 
by A. James Speyer.] 

Los Angeles County Museum of Art. "Six More." 
July 24-August 25. [Catalog with text by Law- 
rence Alloway.] 

Musee cantonal des beaux-arts, Lausanne, Swit- 
zerland. "Miroir et Memoire du Premier Salon 
International de Galeries Pilotes Lausanne." June 
20-October 6. [Catalog published 1964.] 

Oakland Art Museum, Oakland, California. "Pop 
Art USA." September 7-29. [Catalog with text by 
John Coplans; reprinted in Artforum, vol. 2, no. 4, 
October, p. 30, ill. p. 27.] 

Pasadena Art Museum, Pasadena, California. 
"Hard Edge and Emblem: New Work." Novem- 
ber 12-December 26. 

San Francisco Museum of Art. "Pacific Coast 
Invitational." March 8-April 7. [Catalog.] 

1964 Ferus Gallery, Los Angeles. "The Studs." 
Larry Aldrich Museum, Ridgefield, Connecticut. 
"Old Hundred." [Catalog.] 

1965 Milwaukee Art Center, Milwaukee. "Pop Art and 
the American Tradition." April 19-May 9. [Cat- 
alog with text by Tracy Atkinson.] 



VIII Biennial of the Museum of Modern Art, Sao 
Paulo, Brazil. [Catalog with text by Walter 
Hopps; biographical and bibliographical notes.] 

1966 Seattle Art Museum, Seattle. "Ten from Los 
Angeles." [Catalog with text by John Coplans; 
biographical and bibliographical notes, p. 54.] 

University of California at Irvine Art Gallery. 
"Abstract Expressionist Ceramics." October- 
November. [Catalog with text by John Coplans.] 

1967 American Federation of Art, New York. "From 
Synchromism On." 

American Federation of Art, New York. "Small 
Paintings for Museum Collections." 

California State College at Fullerton Art Gallery. 
"Portraits of Artists." July. [Photographs by John 
Waggaman.] 

Pasadena Art Museum, Pasadena, California. 
"Selections from the Charles Cowles Collec- 
tion." June 20-July 16. [Shown afterward at the 
Stanford University Art Gallery, California.] 

Lytton Center for the Visual Arts, Los Angeles. 
"Artists' Artists." 

Lytton Center for the Visual Arts, Los Angeles. 
"California Festival." 

Museum of Modern Art, New York. "Recent 
Acquisitions." 

Portland Art Museum, Portland. "Ninety-four 
Works from the Collection of Sterling HoUoway." 
January 24-February 12. [Catalog with illustration 
on cover.] 

Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, 
California. "Three Young Collections." January 
15-February 26. [Selections from the collections 
of Donald and Lynn Factor, Dennis and Brookd 
Hopper, Andre and Dory Previn. Catalog.] 

Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. 
"1967 Annual Exhibition of Contemporary Amer- 
ican Painting." December 13, 1 967-February 4, 
1968. [Catalog.] 

1968 California State College Art Gallery, Los 
Angeles. "California Small Images Exhibition." 
December 4-January 11, 1968. [Catalog.] 
Jewish Museum, New York. "Suites — Recent 
Prints." 

Lytton Center for the Visual Arts, Los Angeles. 
"Mini Things." January-February. 

Pomona College Art Gallery, Claremont, Cali- 
fornia. "Speed Sculpture." March. [Exhibition of 
motorcycles selected by Billy Al Bengston, and 
related paintings.] 

University of California at San Diego Art Gallery. 
"Los Angeles to New York." February 13- 
March 10. 



Bibliography Reviews and articles : 

1958 Langsner, Jules. "This Summer in Los Angeles," 
Art News, vol. 57, no. 4, Summer, p. 58. [Review 
of one-man show, Ferus Gallery.] 

1959 Langsner, Jules. "Art News from Los Angeles," 
Art News, vol. 58, no. 2, April, pp. 65-66. [Review 
of "Edward Kienholz and Billy Al Bengston: Col- 
lages," Ferus Gallery.] 

Nordland, Gerald. "At the County Museum," 
Frontier, vol. 10, no. 1 1, September, p. 20. 

1960 Langsner, Jules. "Art News from Los Angeles," 
Art News, vol. 59, no. 1, March, p. 51. [Review of 
one-man show, Ferus Gallery.] 

Nordland, Gerald. "Valentines Etcetera," Fron- 
tier, vol. 11, no. 4, February, p. 18, ill., p. 18 
[Review of one-man show, Ferus Gallery.] 

Nordland, Gerald. "Art," Frontier, vol. 11, no. 7, 
May, pp. 20-21. [Review of "50 Paintings by 37 
Artists from the Los Angeles Area," UCLA.] 

1962 "Artists Take to the Place: Wide Open and Way 
Out," Life, October 19. 

"Brush-strokes of a 4-Stroke," Motorcyclist, no. 
772, February, p. 20, ill, p. 20. 

Langsner, Jules. "Los Angeles Letter," Art Inter- 
national, vol. 6,. no. 2, March, p. 48, ill, p. 47. 
[Review of one-man show, Ferus Gallery.] 

Raynor, Vivian. "Fun Art at Jackson," Arts Mag- 
azine, vol. 36 no. 8, September, p. 50. [Review 
of one-man show, Martha Jackson Gallery.] 

Sandler, Irving H. "New Names This Month — 
Billy Bengston," Art News, vol. 61, no. 3, May, 
p. 18. [Review of one-man show, Martha Jackson 
Gallery.] 

Seldis, Henry J. "In the Galleries: Automobile 
Paint on Masonite in Vibrant," Los Angeles 
Times, November 18. [Review of one-man show, 
Ferus Gallery.] 

1963 Coplans, John. "Notes from San Francisco," Art 
International, vol. 7, no. 8, October, pp. 93-94. 
[Review of "Pop Art USA," Oakland Art 
Museum.] 

Factor, Donald. "'Six Painters and the Object', 
and 'Six More' at Los Angeles County Museum 
of Art," Artforum, vol. 2, no. 3, September, p. 13, 
ill. p. 15. [Review.] 

Fried, Michael. "New York Letter," Art Interna- 
tional, vol. 7, no. 9, December, p. 68. [Review of 
show with 10 Americans, Martha Jackson 
Gallery.] 

Langsner, Jules. "Los Angeles Letter," Art Inter- 
national, vol. 7, no. 1, January, p. 82, ill, p. 82. 
[Review of one-man show, Ferus Gallery.] 



Leider, Philip and John Coplans. "West Coast 
Art: Three Images," Artforum, vol. 1, no. 12, 
June, pp. 21-25. [Review of "Pacific Coast Invi- 
tational," San Francisco Museum of Art, among 
other things.] 

1964 Coplans, John. "Circle of Styles on the West 
Coast," Art in America, vol. 52, no. 3, June, pp. 
39-40, ill. on cover. 

Kozloff, Max. "West Coast Art: Vital Pathology," 
The Nation, August 24, pp. 76-79. 

Leider, Philip. "The Cool School," Artforum, vol. 
2, no. 12, Summer, p. 47, ill. p. 48. 

1965 Coplans, John. "Los Angeles: The Scene," Art 
News, vol. 64, no. 1, March, p. 57, ill. p. 29. 

Coplans, John. "Billy Al Bengston," Artforum, 
vol. 3, no. 9, June, pp. 36-38, illus. pp. 36 and 38. 
Coplans, John. "The New Abstraction on the 
West Coast, USA," Studio International, vol. 169, 
no. 865, May. p. 198, ill. p. 197. 

Solomon, Alan. "Making Like Competition in 
L.A.," New York Times, July II, p. lOx, ill, p. lOx. 

1966 "California Fashion: Dressing for the Strip," 
Look, vol. 30, no. 13, June 28, pp. 74-75. 

Jacobs, Jody. "Fashion West," Women's Wear 
Daily, vol. 112, no. 83, April 27, p. 1. 

Seldis, Henry J. "In the Galleries: Last Chance to 
See Collection," Los Angeles Times, February 
17, p. 6, part IV. [Review of "Three Young Col- 
lections," Santa Barbara Museum of Art.] 

1967 "What's That Thing? . . . Or . . . We Saw Motor- 
cycles in an Art Gallery," Modem Cycle, vol. 2, 
no. 2, June, p. 25, ill. p. 24. 

"Men in Vogue," Vogue, vol. 150, no. 3, August 
15, p. 81. 

Coplans, John. "Art Bloom," Vogue, vol. 150, no. 
8, November 1, pp. 184-187, 232-233. 

Danieli, Fidel. "Billy Al Bengston's 'Dentos'," 
Artforum, vol. 5, no. 9, May, pp. 24-27, illus. 
pp. 24-27. 

Ellis, Susan. "A Back-Seat Approach to 'New' 
Art," California Living (Los Angeles Herald 
Examiner Magazine), January 8, pp. 12-13. 

Seidenbaum, Art. "How Can You Call a Smooth 
Slab 'Love in Italian'?" West (Los Angeles Times 
Magazine), May 28, pp. 30-32. 

1968 Livingston, Jane. "Los Angeles Review," Art- 
forum, vol. 6, no. 9, May 1968, pp. 66-67. [Review 
of "Speed Sculpture show," Pomona College Art 
Gallery.] 

"Place in the Sun," Time, August 30, pp. 38-41, 
ill. p. 40. 



Right: Billy Al Bengston in 
scrambles at Corriganville, 
1961. 2nd place; 250cc 
Amateur. 



Photographic Credits 



Harry Bennett 

Ed Cornachio 

John Gebhart 

Art Holt 

Lut Jeans 

Robert Kays 

Walt Mahoney 

Jerry McMillan „ , „„ ,,„ 

ir ,1 n ■ Right: Billy Al Bengston at 

Kennetii Price A^^^, p^^^^ Gardena, 1964, 

rrank InomdS winning 1st place Amateur. 

Art Waldinger ' Photo: Walt Mahoney. 






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Los Angeles County 

Board of Supervisors 

Frank G. Bonelli, Chairman 

Burton W. Chace 

Ernest E. Debs 

Warren M. Dorn 

Kenneth Hahn 

Lindon S. HolUnger, Chief Administrative Officer 

Los Angeles County Museum of Art 

Board of Trustees 

Edward W. Carter, Chairman 

Sidney F. Brody, President 

Mrs. Aerol Arnold, Vice President 

Mrs. Freeman Gates, Vice President 

Dr. Franklin D. Murphy, Vice President 

Taft B. Schreiber, Secretary 

Charles E. Ducommun, Treasurer 

Justin Dart 

Dr. Armand Hammer 

Felix Juda 

Joseph B. Koepfli 

Hoyt B. Leisure 

Mrs. Rudolph Liebig 

Charles O. Matcham 

Henry T. Mudd 

Edwin W. Pauley 

William T. Sesnon, Jr. 

Richard E. Sherwood 

Norton Simon 

Mrs. Kellogg Spear 

Maynard J. Toll 

John Walker 

Hal B. Wallis 

Mrs. Stuart E. Weaver, Jr. 

Mrs. Herman Weiner 

Dr. M. Norvel Young ^. , _.,, „,^ 

Right: Billy Al Bengston 

Director on a "Thunderbike" at 

V lU rs L. Whiteman Stadium, 

Kenneth Donahue -n ^ncn -r^ -kt -n 

Pacoima, 1968. D.N. F. 



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Catalogue Designed by Ed Ruscha 
2500 copies printed 
at Toyo Press, Los Angeles 
Cover Hocking: O'Koy Embroidery 
Binding: Keystone Bolt & Supply Co. 



Installation designed by: Frank Gehry, Architect 



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