Billy Al truly doesn’t give a shit what you think about these paintings. He’s only ever given a shit as to what his close circle of friends and mentors – Kenny Price, Ed Ruscha… the other Ed (Moses), Craig Kauffman, John Altoon, Larry Bell and Peter Voulkos thought about his practice. Same as how he “risked hitting a wall” every single time to impress his surfing and motorcycle racing buddies.
The story with these moon paintings is that Billy Al and Ed were riding motorcycles down a magnificent stretch of the Baja Peninsula admiring the brilliant lunar sky against the Sea of Cortez. Billy Al took first dibs on painting the moon. He has a similar story about his well-known Draculas and his Chevrons, a specific social moment with a buddy that he was trying to one-up. Billy Al has a reputation of being a show-off.
They say he’s mellowed with age, but maybe it’s just that he has fewer peers still around to impress. We tell him it might not mean as much to him, but he can still impress the youngsters. He chuckles back because he thinks we’re earnest and cute. He lets us run with it and do whatever the hell we want, just as long as we let him do whatever the hell he wants – and work around his nap time for the opening.
Like most of you reading this press release, we didn’t get to see the original show at James Corcoran Gallery in Santa Monica where these moon paintings debuted thirty years ago. Now is your chance. When you see these works in person, you’ll find them to be compositionally lucid, with wickedly sensuous coloration, punctuated by radical textures of cosmic impasto.
Or, as Billy Al says…
“CAN’T MAKE CHICKEN
SALAD OUTA CHICKEN SHIT”
Billy Al Bengston (b. 1934, Dodge City, Kansas) moved to Los Angeles with his family in 1948 and currently lives and works in Venice Beach, CA as well as Honolulu, HI. He studied painting under Richard Diebenkorn at California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland. 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. 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 in New Britain, CT.
Bengston’s work is included in a number of important permanent collections including the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; 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.