Los Angeles Confidential: Art of the City: Billy Al Bengston and Other Bold Artists We Spotlight This Year

Los Angeles Confidential

Moving beyond the constraints of the functional, Bengston advanced to art, studying ceramics at the California College of the Arts and the Otis College of Art and Design, where he was taught, inspired, and challenged by the likes of Richard Diebenkorn, Saburo Hasegawa, and Peter Voulkos. “Voulkos! Ultimately I figured out I couldn’t be as good [a ceramicist] as Voulkos,” he admits. “But I thought, I can paint better than Voulkos!” So Bengston switched media. He proceeded to have five solo shows at the famed Ferus Gallery on North La Cienega Boulevard between 1958 and 1963, and at age 82 he continues to strive to paint a pretty picture—noting, however, that his idea of a pretty picture might not be yours: “Painting, it’s like self-flagellation. You sort of like it, and hope other people like what you did while you were beating yourself.”

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