Frank Lloyd’s blog

Art, architecture and the people that I know.

Author Kristine McKenna signs new release: The Ferus Gallery: A Place to Begin

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John Mason solo exhibition at Ferus Gallery in 1959.
Photo by Robert Bucknam

Kristine McKenna, a Los Angeles based author and curator, will sign copies of her latest book on November 21, 2009.  The book signing event will take place at the Frank Lloyd Gallery, from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. The recently published book, The Ferus Gallery: A Place to Begin, is an illustrated oral history of the Ferus Gallery, a storied enterprise that showcased modern art during the late 1950s and 1960s. Drawing from 62 new interviews and more than 300 photographs (most previously unpublished), the book retrieves a lost chapter of twentieth-century American art.  The text is written and edited by Kristine McKenna.

Kristine McKenna is a noted author, art expert and co-editor of the critically acclaimed publication Semina Culture.  Kristine has also organized numerous exhibits about American music and art, and has written for the New York Times, Rolling Stone, the Los Angeles Times, Art in America, and many other major publications.

In 1950s California, and especially in Los Angeles, there existed few venues for contemporary art.  To a whole generation of California artists, this presented a freedom, since the absence of a context for their work meant that they could coin their own, and in uncommonly interesting ways. The careers of Ed Ruscha, Wallace Berman and Ed Kienholz all begin with this absence: Ruscha’s early and iconic Pop images combine words with images, Berman pioneered installation art with his first Ferus show, and in March 1957, Ed Kienholz, in collaboration with curator Walter Hopps, co-founded one of California’s greatest historical galleries, Ferus. Within months of opening, Ferus gallery gained notoriety when the Hollywood vice squad raided Berman’s first–and, in his lifetime, last–solo exhibition, following a complaint about “lewd material.” Shows by Kienholz and Jay DeFeo followed, but 1962 was Ferus’ annus mirabilis, with solo shows by Bruce Conner and Joseph Cornell, and solo shows of Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol (his first gallery show ever).  The following year, Ferus also hosted Ed Ruscha’s first solo exhibition.  After Kienholz and Hopps moved on to other things–Hopps went on to mount the first American Duchamp retrospective at the Pasadena Art Musuem–the reins were handed to Irving Blum, who took over and ran the gallery until its closure in 1966.

Former Ferus artists currently exhibiting at the Frank Lloyd Gallery are John Mason, Larry Bell, Ed Moses and Craig Kauffman.

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