GIFT IDEAS FROM ARTHUR MAGAZINE No. 2: "A Place to Begin: The Ferus Gallery" by Kristine McKenna

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ferusgallery

“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 turned to books as a means of dissemination, Berman pioneered mail art through his magazine Semina 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, which is Latin for “wild,” 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 the first solo shows of Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol on the west coast. The following year, Ferus also hosted Ed Ruscha’s first solo exhibition. After Kienholz and Hopps parted ways—Hopps went on to mount the first American Duchamp retrospective at the Pasadena Art Musuem—the reins were handed to Irving Blum, who got Ferus out of the red and ran the gallery until its closure in 1966. A Place to Begin is an illustrated oral history of this heroic enterprise. With 62 new interviews with Ferus artists and more than 300 photographs (most previously unpublished), it retrieves a lost chapter of twentieth-century American art. Edited by [longtime Arthur contributor] Kristine McKenna, noted expert and co-editor of the critically acclaimed Semina Culture: Wallace Berman & His Circle.”

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About Jay Babcock

I am the co-founder and editor of Arthur Magazine (2002-2008, 2012-13) and curator of the three Arthur music festival events (Arthurfest, ArthurBall, and Arthur Nights) (2005-6). Prior to that I was a district office staffer for Congressman Henry A. Waxman, a DJ at Silver Lake pirate radio station KBLT, a copy editor at Larry Flynt Publications, an editor at Mean magazine, and a freelance journalist contributing work to LAWeekly, Mojo, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Vibe, Rap Pages and many other print and online outlets. An extended piece I wrote on Fela Kuti was selected for the Da Capo Best Music Writing 2000 anthology. In 2006, I was one of five Angelenos listed in the Music section of Los Angeles Magazine's annual "Power" issue. In 2007-8, I produced a blog called "Nature Trumps," about the L.A. River. Today, I live a peaceful life in the rural wilderness of Joshua Tree, California, where I am a partner in JTHomesteader.com with Stephanie Smith.

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