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L.A.'s famed Ferus Gallery to return -- sort of

January 19, 2010 | 12:24 pm

Ferus Los Angeles' Ferus Gallery helped to nurture the talents of such artists as Ed Ruscha, Billy Al Bengston, Robert Irwin, Ed Moses, Wallace Berman and Ed Kienholz. From 1957 to 1966, the gallery, which was located on La Cienega Boulevard, served as a hub for the city's nascent postwar art scene.

More than 40 years later, the Ferus Gallery is set for a comeback -- sort of. Starting Feb. 9, the Samuel Freeman gallery in Santa Monica will create a replica of the Ferus within its own walls. The exhibition will feature the original door that stood at the entrance of the Ferus plus a full-scale re-creation of the gallery's 1960 solo Bengston exhibition.

The show, which will run through March 13, is titled "Billy" and will feature  a survey of 50 years of work by the artist concurrent with the replica of the artist's 1960 Ferus  exhibition.

"We're going to rebuild the Ferus to scale," said Sam Freeman, the gallery owner. "We're mounting it as a gallery within the gallery."

He said that the original Ferus occupied a space approximately 15 feet by 20 feet -- or about one-eighth the size of the Samuel Freeman gallery, which is located at Bergamot Station.

The idea for the show came from Bengston and his wife, Wendy Al, who sent Freeman an image of a poster from the 1960 show. "I noticed that it would be the 50th anniversary of the show and I thought, how could we not do it?" said Freeman.

It's unknown precisely what visitors can expect to see at the gallery next month. Bengston is known for changing his mind at the last minute.

A spokesman for the gallery put it this way: "With Billy, you don't know what you're getting. He may show up two days beforehand with a totally different idea."

What could be confirmed is that Bengston will exhibit some of his original Heart/Anthurium paintings. The Samuel Freeman Gallery said that some of the original pieces from the 1960 show belong to private collections now, although the artist has bought some of them back. The gallery said it would also be borrowing some work from third parties.

The Ferus Gallery was the subject of a recent documentary, "The Cool School," which ran in theaters and on PBS. 

In addition to launching the careers of notable L.A. artists, the Ferus Gallery also presented work by East Coast artists such as Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Donald Judd, Frank Stella, Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns.

-- David Ng

Photo: Ed Moses, John Altoon, Billy Al Bengston and Irving Blum in front of Ferus Gallery, 1959. Credit: William Claxton, from Fahey/Klein Gallery, Los Angeles

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