Peter Voulkos: Words from Irving Blum
A friend of the gallery sent me the Ferus book, a publication of the Gagosian Gallery in New York. The book was published on the occasion of their Ferus exhibition in 2002. It’s a handsome record of the artists and exhibits, and contains an interview with Irving Blum as well as an article about Andy Warhol—written by the late, great curator Kirk Varnedoe.
In addition to the brilliant graphic design (by Bruce Mau of Toronto), there are classic black and white photos (a number are by the late William Claxton, who is best known for his images of Jazz musicians). The graphic record of announcements and posters speaks about the vision of the gallery program. Then, there’s the insight into the legendary Irving Blum himself. Sure enough, in the interview I found a reference to something I’ve posted before: the tremendous influence of Peter Voulkos on artists in L.A. during the late 1950s and early 1960s.
In the interview, Roberta Bernstein stated to Irving Blum: “Peter Voulkos was an important influence on many of the artists who showed at Ferus, “ and Irving responded, “Absolutely. Billy Al Bengston studied with Peter and Peter was always an enormous presence. He had a profound influence even among the painters.”
I’ve been going over a lot of texts recently, and the passage reminded me of something from Barbara Isenberg’s essay about the Otis years, included in the publication celebrating the school’s 50th anniversary:
“Bengston thinks that every artist in Los Angeles’ fabled Ferus Gallery was influenced by ceramics at the time, and Ferus’ director, the dealer Irving Blum concurs. “Billy Al would do a show and if Ken Price or John Altoon came in and thought it was hot potatoes—that meant something. The artists informed each other, and I think the Ferus scene would have been far less energetic without the Peter Voulkos influence.”
This is quite a testament to the magnetic power of Peter Voulkos on the L.A. scene—especially when one realizes that Voulkos never even showed at Ferus. His work was first represented by Felix Landau, and then by David Stuart.