It seems quite daunting today to picture Los Angeles and Southern California as “incredibly conservative”. But, as we turn our gaze back to the immediate years following the cessation of hostilities with the end of WWII in 1945, that is exactly the situation for visual artists living in the greater Los Angeles area. In filmmaker Morgan Neville’s The Cool School, the cinematographer exclaims to Madeleine Brand: “Before the gallery opened (i.e. The Ferus Gallery), the idea that you would make a living as an artist was really foreign to anybody in Los Angeles…The environment was hostile to art, and despite the movie industry, the city as a whole was incredibly conservative”.
For those gifted and talented artists living in Los Angeles and Southern California (i.e., So Cal), pressure was applied on those who wanted to seek fame and fortune to do so in New York City. The Ferus Group of artists heard that admonition constantly but felt confident enough to stay in the Southland and produce in their studios. In The Cool School documentary, Neville points out: “The artists in the scene were glamorous…They were good-looking men, they were surfers and beatniks and hard-living, hard-drinking, womanizing artists..And because there was bi established art scene in Los Angeles, they were able to easily push past what elsewhere would be limits”.
What are your thoughts on the Ferus Gallery and the Ferus Group of artists who, for all intents and purposes, established a strong West Coast aesthetic that was both different from NYC yet just as strong and significant? Can what happened in Los Angeles in the 1950swith The Ferus Gallery and Ferus Group of artists happen in Las Vegas? Is our desert community ripe for such a development of high end culture?
Ferus Gallery, ca. 1962
Walter Hopps (left) and Ferus Gang at Reunion