BILLY AL BENGSTON'S 1974 show at Nick Wilder's proved him gifted in manipulating paint on canvas and a master of his own gestalt. His new work, shown recently at James Corcoran Gall., 8223 Santa Monica Bl., is conceptual & spontaneous. Exuberant play of images and lush color interact within framework of his icons: the iris, square, circular or spherical line. The sprayed image now appears in a sensuous, festive, floating banner form rather than remaining bolted to wall...
–Diana Zlotnick, Newsletter on the Arts Summer 1976
Art is something you can't teach, but you can inspire it.
Billy Al Bengston
Diana Zlotnick and Post-War Art in Los Angeles
A voracious collector, community builder, and champion of emergent contemporary artists, Diana Zlotnick tapped into the Los Angeles art world at a particularly charged moment of post-war creative ferment. Today, the art milieu of the late 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s Los Angeles has taken on nearly mythic qualities, conjuring Bohemian fetes in canyons, the experimental openness of CalArts, Venice Beach warehouse studios, and, broadly, an explosion of material and conceptual inquiry through performance, sculpture, video, painting, publication, and more. Zlotnick immersed herself wholeheartedly in this atmosphere, led by fearless curiosity, dedication, and deeply felt connections to the works that she brought home.
Collect art that cancels out the rest of the world…—Diana Zlotnick, Newsletter on the Arts, 2013
Born in 1927 and raised in Los Angeles, Diana Zlotnick (née Shirley) attended Fairfax High School and would later support herself as a schoolteacher. She met Harry Zlotnick at a USO dance, and, after a whirlwind romance, the couple married on July 3, 1955. Being a schoolteacher was decidedly not Ms. Zlotnick’s calling, nor was being a dental hygienist (she flunked the program). Encouraged by her husband, who was able to support the family as a veterinarian, Zlotnick stopped working—and started collecting. With determination, savvy, and a healthy dose of chutzpah, she went on to amass an extensive collection from major artists as their stars were rising – among those who most captivated her were Wallace Berman, Chris Burden, Llyn Foulkes, George Herms, Channa Horwitz, Gloria Kisch, Ed Ruscha, and Richard and Shirley Pettibone.
There aren't many collectors like Diana Zlotnick, though there ought to be...Not content to play the passive art consumer, she quickly began circumventing the gallery system, approaching artists directly — visiting studios, exploring work in depth and developing real relationships.
Doug Harvey, L.A. Weekly, October 27, 2005
Based in Venice, California, Billy Al Bengston burst onto the scene in the 1950s with his passion for motorcycle racing and art. Bengston was discharged from the California College of Arts and Crafts in 1955 for depleting the clay supply. Following this exit, he enrolled at the Otis Art Institute to study under Peter Voulkos whom he later named as a significant influence, along with Richard Diebenkorn. Bengston found immediate success in the Los Angeles art scene, enjoying multiple solo shows at Ferus Gallery and a 1968 exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. His artistic output, mainly sculpture and painting, is informed by a variety of influences that range from his love of motorcycles and car-detailing techniques to recurring geometric shapes similar to those of Jasper Johns. Art historian Andrew Perchuck included Bengston among the "West Coast artists, including Robert Irwin and Ken Price, who were instrumental in redefining the terms of artistic identity in the early 60s by insisting that sub-cultural affinities and leisure-time activities (surfing, car customizing) were at the foundation of their artistic personas."
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