New York

Billy Al Bengston

Acquavella Gallery

Billy Al Bengston lives in California. His art is every nightmare a New York Serious Art Person ever had about California art. There is the old story about an artist who races cars, surfs, and lives year-round at the beach. And his better known shiny, candy-colored, car spray paintings—well, cars, Los Angeles, and eternal adolescence all go together.

Bengston was temporarily accepted and authorized by the Eastern establishment as a Pop Art devotee. He disappeared from New York after that—misunderstood and forever tagged and shelved. He surfaced, quite to my surprise, in the Whitney Biennial this year. And now, a big show at a palatial gallery. What does this reemergence mean? Is it sheer commercial good instincts? Bengston was playing with decoration before anyone even dared consider it in New York—tea tables; standing screens; bamboo mobiles; wallpaper paintings, unstretched, painted like

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