Billy Al Bengston Dead at 88


Billy Al Bengston, a Kansas-born California painter who drew inspiration from the car and surf culture of midcentury Los Angeles, and was part of a 1960s movement, known as LA Cool School, that helped transform the city from an art-world afterthought into a hub of contemporary art, died Oct. 8 at his home in Venice, California. He was 88.

Working in both painting and sculpture, his psychedelically colorful works feature mandala-like shapes with imagery derived from symbols, chevrons, and iris flowers. Bengston has often used the industrial tools of custom car makers, particularly spray paint and lacquer applied to sheets of aluminum. Born on June 7, 1934 in Dodge City, KA, the artist studied under Richard Diebenkorn and Saburo Hasegawa at the California College of Arts and Crafts before moving to Los Angeles. There, Bengston began showing at the famed Ferus Gallery and established himself as part of a group that rejected the stereotype of the artist as a tormented individual, alongside famed Californian artists like John McCrackenRobert Irwin, and Ed Ruscha. Today, his works can be found in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Cleveland Museum of Art, among others.

The Works Gallery – my first space – showed Bengston a number of times. He was the inaugural show at my Costa Mesa gallery in 1989. He will be greatly missed.

His NY Times Obituary is at:


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