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SU N S H IN E

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NOIR?

Hopps’s Ferus Gallery on La Cienga Boulevard. ‘A motley batch of beatniks, eccentrics, and “ art types” ’, they became the ‘seminal source for the blossoming of modernist art in Los Angeles during the sixties’.118 The Ferus core, including Billy Al Bengstrom, Ed Moses, Craig Kauffman, Robert Irwin, Larry Bell and Ed Ruscha (along with Kienholz himself) were far too individualistic to form an identifiable ‘L.A. school’, but they were temporarily unified by common passions. One was their desire to break the academicist stranglehold over Los Angeles’s backwater art world, although they differed on the means towards that end (abstract expressionism versus hard-edge abstractionism, for example). Another was a biographicál and aesthetic camaraderie based on enthusiasm for the hotrod and motorcycle subcultures that had developed in Southern California from the 1940s. In his talks with Lawrence Weschler, Robert Irwin (who had attended L.A.’s Dorsey High School with Eric Dolphy) repeatedly emphasized the importance of custom-car ‘folk art’ to the emergence of the Ferus group and the ‘L.A. Look’ which they eventually created. Earlier, critic Nancy Marmer, in contrasting the Northern and Southern California avant gardes, had made the same point: Aside from the backdrop influence of Hollywood and the hypertrophied ‘neon-fruit supermarket’, there has also existed in California an idiosyncratic welding of sub­ cultures and a body of small but curiously prophetic art, whose influence, if not always direct, is at least in an askew relation to contemporary Pop Art. For example, the Los Angeles hot-rod world, with its teenage rites, baroque car designs, kandykolors, its notion of a high-polish craftsmanship, and, perhaps most influential, its established conventions of decorative paint techniques, has flourished in the southern part of the state since the 1940s. If the imagery (‘Mad Magazine Bosch’, one writer has called it) has fortunately not been especially important, the customcoach techniques of air-brush manipulation, ‘candy apple-ing’, and ‘striping’ have been variously suggestive.119 In the evolving work of motorcycle racer Billy Al Bengston’s heraldic auto surfaces, Ed Ruscha’s gas station and parking lot books, Craig Kaufmann’s Plexiglas paintings, and Larry Bell’s Minimalist cubes, folk car culture was transformed into the ‘cool , semitechnological, industrially pretty art’ that became the patented ‘L.A. Look’ of the 1960s.120 It was the avant-garde counterpart to the ‘Endless Summer’ depicted in Roger Corman movies, the

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