Have artists in the United States become entertainers? Do we, the audience, really want our artists to divert us from the realities of contemporary urban living by redirecting our eyes and thoughts to those things an artist’s gaze deems beautiful? Maybe I am being too literal here but the following message from Southern California artist Billy Al Bengston may be interpreted from a number of different points of view—none of which seem especially uplifting or forward moving. Bengston stated: “I paint stupid things; that’s what I do. I can’t think of anything more boring than a really beautiful thing. You have to mess it up. There has to be something a little kinky to keep their attention.”
Maybe this statement from Bengston relates to his youthful extreme experience of racing motorcycles and embracing the motorcycle culture of Southern California. What are your thoughts of the current role American artists play in today’s urban society and how does that perception fit into the driving force of the Ferus Gang in Los Angeles during the late 1950s through the 1960s?
Entrance to Billy Al Bengston’s Retrospective Designed by Frank Gehry
Billy Al Bengston Racing
Billy Al Bengston, Buster, 1962