Billy Al Bengston
Various Small Fires (VSF), Los Angeles (SP2)
Various Small Fires presents a selection of Billy Al Bengston’s (b.1934) “moon paintings”, the first grouped exhibition of this series outside of California since their debut at James Corcoran Gallery (Santa Monica) in 1990.
A pioneer of the 1960s California “Finish Fetish” and “Light and Space” movements, and an original member of the legendary Ferus Gallery’s roster, Bengston’s early paintings combined post-colorfield / proto-minimalist compositions anchored by iconographic references to popular culture (such as chevrons, in the context of the Vietnam War) and personal passions: the car and surfing culture of Venice Beach, motorcycle racing, and nature.
When Bengston established a second studio in Hawaii in 1980, his subject matter and style shifted to the transcendent: meditative night skies, lunar reflections over water, and galactic moonscapes – often viewed from the perspective of a surfboard floating in the ocean (and perhaps referencing Bengston’s surfing pseudonym “Moondoggie”). Produced primarily between 1983-1990, dozens of such “moon paintings” comprise a distinctive yet overlooked body of Bengston’s work.
Didoufri (1989) is a radiant composition of richly textured moons suspended among crimson ribbons. Complementing this work is a group of restrained minimalist moon paintings in which bold lunar discs rising against abstracted night skies cast planes of light onto inky black water. The paintings will be complemented by a selection of Bengston’s handwoven Oaxacan rugs, depicting glowing moons rising and falling over indigo-dyed oceans.