Billy Al Bengston, Gold Hill Dracula, 1969, oil on canvas, 14 × 14".

Billy Al Bengston

Franklin Parrasch Gallery

Billy Al Bengston, Gold Hill Dracula, 1969, oil on canvas, 14 × 14".

“We’d surf, play Ping-Pong and work, smoke and drink black coffee. That’s it. That was what we did for three or four years. That’s all we could afford to do,” Billy Al Bengston recently said, recounting his time sharing a studio with fellow painter and ceramicist Ken Price in the early 1960s. I don’t surf, but those close to me who do have often noted the degree to which it’s a transfixing waiting game in which natural rhythms take over any sense of structured temporality, and doing the same thing over and over again is never the same thing. And so it’s a smart conceit that this small exhibition of paintings encompassing more than half a century of Bengston’s career seems to insist on that strange duration in which nothing much happens at all.

It’s far from boring, though. Doing very little can be a transcendent process, a move toward synthesis with nature: Wait long enough and

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