LOS ANGELES, CA.- Parrasch Heijnen Gallery
presents Billy Al Bengston: Dentos, 1965 - 1970, the gallery's first solo exhibition of this legendary Los Angeles artist. Billy Al Bengston (b. 1934, Dodge City, KS) first began using automobile lacquers on dented and/or punctured aluminum in 1965 to challenge the limitations of painting. He initially called these works "Canto Indentos", which he later shortened to "Dentos". Channeling the "no rules, no rules" mantra of Bengstons friend and mentor Peter Voulkos, the Dentos expanded the potential of the picture plane.
It was in the late 1950s that Bengston originated his trademark inclusion of single, centralized icons in his work, primarily referencing three appropriated images: Chevrons (sergeant stripes haloed within an orb within a rectangle), Draculas (flowers illustrated on Iris brand sugar packets), and hearts (of the Valentines Day variety). In the early 1960s, working with high gloss oil on Masonite, Bengston combined these emblems with color field abstractions, first showing his bold Chevron paintings at the Martha Jackson Gallery in New York in 1962.
With the added variables of chatoyant spray lacquers and polyurethane on manipulated aluminum sheets, Bengston liberated the dimensional vocabulary of painting when he initiated the Dentos in 1965. As Bengston asserts, "if viewed correctly you lose the edges - the painting goes forward, the painting goes back, the painting is in flux. It was everything that I think that we had to think of as Modernists at that time." The period in which this work was produced, not coincidentally, correlated with Bengston's other professional career: motorcycle racing. As a part of his West Coast counterculture attitude, Bengstons obsession with motorcycle and car culture led him to this new way of painting.
My first sort of breakthrough and I dont think anybody else did it before me, but maybe they did, in my field, came from the practical aspects of dealing with motorcycles. Ive always been a technique nut. Ive always believed in materials. Ive always believed your materials will lead you to where you want to go, until you know where you want to go and then youll fall off the track and youll have to get back on it again because your materials are better than you are
Looking at motorcycles, looking at mechanical things, and looking at how they are built, ya know, life is all about maintenance, but those dont need as much maintenance as an oil painting. If I painted my tank on my motorcycle with oil paint, Id have to repaint it after every time I rode. It wasnt as strong
So I said OK, first of all lets give ourselves a break and think of something we are not going to need to restore immediately
OK, I got it..
Billy Al Bengstons work resides in the permanent collections of numerous public institutions in the United States and abroad, including the Whitney Museum of American Art (New York, NY), the Museum of Modern Art (New York, NY), the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (New York, NY), the Corcoran Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.), the Philadelphia Museum of Art (Philadelphia, PA), the Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, CT), the Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, IL), the Contemporary Arts Museum (Houston, TX), the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Los Angeles, CA), and Centre Georges Pompidou (Paris, France). Bengston was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Grant in 1967, a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship in 1975, and was a Fellow at the Tamarind Lithography Workshop in 1968, 1982, and 1987.