Monday, May 24, 2010

Art's "Cool School" Returns

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


Anonymous said...

I went to the party, too, and those Ed Moses drawings are indeed exquisite. There is a density and obsessive layering to the marking.
It's a great chance to see an extraordinary body of Moses' work, to be sure.

There are a couple of important facts to clarify, though. First, Ed Moses is 84. He was born in April of 1926.

Second, the space you describe is leased by Thomas M. Beeton, an interior designer based in New York and Los Angeles. He should get some credit for his part in this re-creation. Realizing that he had the lease to the old Ferus space, Beeton made an agreement with Tim Nye to present an exhibition program. Your readers might benefit from knowing that.

Third, of course, is clarification about the on-going exhibitions and representation of the artists. Of the original Ferus stable, many have been widely exhibited: Ed Keinholz, Ken Price and Wallace Berman have had numerous in L.A. exhibitions at L.A. Louver, and Keinholz's "Roxy's" is currently on view at David Zwirner. Ken Price is represented by NYC heavy-hitter Matthew Marks. Billy Al Bengston, who continues to live and work in Venice, has exhibited twice recently at Samuel Freeman's gallery in Santa Monica. John Altoon's Estate is represented by Ruth Braunstein, and recently his stunning drawings were seen here in L.A. at the Box in Chinatown, as well as Mary Boone in NYC. The list goes on, if you count the dozens of shows at galleries (like Gagosian) and museums (like MOCA)for mega-star Ed Ruscha.

Of course, my gallery has presented 8 (yes, that's 8 one-person shows) of John Mason, who had 4 one-man exhibits at Ferus. I also regularly present exhibits of the late Craig Kauffman (2 solo shows), Larry Bell (in total 2 solo and 6 group shows)and....4 major solo shows of work by Ed Moses. So to clarify the comment "many of whom are still active and working in Southern California", one might want to note that Nye's "commitment" trails in the road built by many others.

Since so much work was put into the production of Morgan Neville's documentary film "Cool School" and Kristine McKenna's book "Ferus Gallery, A Place to Begin", it might also be important for readers to understand the tremendous efforts that L.A.-based writers and researchers built up the interest in this period of time. Let's give credit to those that set the stage, please.

Regards, Frank Lloyd

Scott Timberg said...

Of course I appreciate the correction to Moses' age. What this correspondent says about these artists being represented elsewhere: I did indeed bring this up with Nye, and that's an issue I hope to pursue in future posts and articles.

Interested parties can indeed learn more about the gallery from the film, McKenna's book, and so on.

But let ME offer a clarification of my own: This was basically a morning-after post tipping people off to something interesting on the horizon, not a full-scale attempt to retell all of Ferus history and all that has been said and thought about it since. That's what future posts are for.

Scott Waterman said...

Did you revisit the Ferus Gallery as subject matter? What about adding a Google search box to your blog?