THE Ferus Gallery is probably the most famous gallery in the history of Los Angeles – the site of Warhol’s first-ever solo show, obscenity charges over a Wallace Berman exhibit, and home base of the “cool school” of L.A. artists which included Ed Moses, Robert Irwin and Ed Ruscha. Quite an impact for a place which only lasted from 1957 to '67.
The other night the storied space held an opening – Moses’ exquisite, obsessive drawings from the ‘60s – designed in part to announce the gallery’s relaunch.
Between a very fine rockabilly/country blues band called The Americans – the lead singer played a steel National guitar like Bukka White – a bar serving California wine, and vintage surfing films shown on the building behind the gallery while the crowd gathered outside, it was a celebration of life in the Golden State. There were lots of men in chunky glasses and women without bras.
The gallery, now leased by Tim Nye, is at the same relatively small space it occupied in its heyday – after its closing it was taken over by a tailor, who ran his shop there for four decades.
I met Nye, a sandy-haired hipster who’s run a number of New York spaces over the years dedicated to art and, some evenings, to indie rock. (He is also the co-founder of SonicNet and the heir to a considerable industrial fortune.)
At least at this stage, Nye said, he’s intending to showcase the original Ferus artists, many of whom are still active and working in Southern California. “I’m committed to that generation of artists.”
Ed Moses himself was around: Now 84, he was sporting a long beard and gray ski jacket and was followed by what looked like several camera crews. (The great Ed Ruscha was supposed to make it but was, I'm told, in New York.)
I have, of course, some questions as to how well this whole thing will work, and how it can move forward and avoid being just nostalgia. But overall, a great event and a promising start to the new venture.
Photo by William Claxton