LA Art Circle 1950-60

At certain points and at certain times there is a coalescence of a critical mass of artistic talent. This is the case with LA and art in the late 1950s. LA was considered a backwater of arts culture – certainly when compared to the New York arts scene. The LA epicenter was the Ferus Gallery started by Walter Hopps, Edward Kienholz and Bob Alexander. Ed Ruscha was one of the prominent artists at the gallery. He was a photographer as well as a conceptual artist.

Ed Ruscha as photographed by Dennis Hopper

Dennis Hopper the actor became interested in knowing and collecting the art of these West Coast artists. He was also a photographer in his own right. Let’s look into the photography of Ruscha and Hopper.

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More about the LA art scene: at the time there was a controversy as to whether New York or LA discovered Pop Art. Many claim that it was LA. They would opine that the whole atmosphere of LA, billboards screaming to ‘buy me’ spoke to the pop artist of LA. Some say it sprang up de novo simultaneously as a rejection of Abstract Impressionism

What wasn’t in doubt was the inequity in prices being paid for artwork, with New York fetching the big bucks. Was it just the density of collectors or the quality of the work? It would be anyone’s guess. I would put my money on the more mature art market on the East Coast as compared to the burgeoning scene in LA.