Billy Al Bengston & Ed Ruscha: Reunited

Self-published at Various Small Fires, Seoul, 2019

8 x 10 inches


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Reunited Catalog

Billy Al Bengston

Ed Ruscha


Bengston and Ruscha have personally selected for this exhibition works that reflect on their six decades of friendship, wanderlust, and inside jokes. Since the late 1960s, when both were part of the iconic Ferus Gallery’s original “Cool School” roster, the pair took numerous motorcycle trips from Venice Beach, California to the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula. Riding along the coast from dawn to twilight, Billy and Ed watched the moon rise over the Sea of Cortez. In this exhibition, Bengston’s B n E in SF, which stands for “Billy and Ed in San Francisquito” (a Tijuana, Mexico campsite where the two slept on the beach) memorializes such a view: a large pearlescent moon reflecting over a still blue-black ocean. Ruscha’s work Bop That Twerp references a term of endearment with which he goads Bengston’s antics during their adventures together.


True to their shared irreverent sense of humor, the artists determined to open this exhibition on America’s April Fool’s Day, April 1st, which fortuitously happens to fall this year on the Monday following Art Basel Hong Kong. This exhibition is Bengston and Ruscha’s first two-person show together in 50 years, since their joint exhibition in 1969 at the Reece Paley Gallery in San Francisco, then aged 34 and 31. At the front desk, VSF will display a copy of the original 1969 catalog alongside the freshly published 2019 catalog celebrating the reunion exhibition five decades later. Photographed by their longtime mutual friend, Tim Street Porter, Bengston and Ruscha sit together in the same Venice studio they worked in sixty years ago, alongside the likes of Ken Price, Ed Moses, and Larry Bell, spilling stories of the trips they shared, the friends that came and went, and the journey through time that brought them together once more in Seoul.


Billy Al Bengston (b. 1934, Dodge City, KS, lives and works in Venice Beach, CA and Honolulu, HI) moved to Los Angeles with his family in 1948. He studied painting under Richard Diebenkorn at California College of Arts, Oakland, CA. In 1957, Bengston began showing with the legendary Ferus Gallery (founded and run by Walter Hopps, Edward Kienholz and Irving Blum) until the gallery closed in 1966. Bengston has had major solo presentations at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA; the San Francisco Museum of Art, CA; the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, TX; and the Honolulu Museum of Art, HI. His work is included in a number of important permanent collections including the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, FR; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY; the Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; the Chicago Art Institute, IL; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA; the Philadelphia Museum of Art, PA; and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA. Bengston was most recently the focus of the major retrospective California Dreaming: Ed Moses, Billy Al Bengston & Ed Ruscha at the New Britain Museum of Art, CT.


Ed Ruscha (b. 1937, Omaha, NE, lives and works in Los Angeles, CA) moved to Los Angeles, CA in 1956 where he attended Chouinard Art Institute, from which he graduated in 1960. Ruscha’s early paintings explored the noise and the fluidity of language and attracted notice as part of the Pop Art movement of the 1960s. The first retrospective of Ruscha’s work was held in 2004 at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY and he represented the United States at the 51st Venice Biennale, 2005. He has had major solo exhibitions at the Secession, Vienna, Austria; the National Gallery of Art, London, England; the Tate, London, England; the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, Scotland; the Getty Museum, Los Angeles, CA; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA; and many more. His work is in the collections of major national and international museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY; The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY; the Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France; The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; the Tate, London, England; the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands; and many others. He is represented by Gagosian Gallery.