NEW BRITAIN -West Coast artists Billy Al Bengston and Ed Ruscha spoke to a sold-out audience at the New Britain Museum of American Art Thursday night as part of the museum’s “An Evening With …” series.
The artists are behind the newest exhibit at the museum, “California Dreaming: Ed Moses, Billy Al Bengston & Ed Ruscha,” which opens today.
The discussion was moderated by artist and art critic Peter Plagens, and focused on the postwar art scene in Los Angeles during the 1950s and 1960s at the Ferus Gallery - nicknamed the Cool School because of the experimental artwork that came out of it.
Although Moses was unable to attended the panel, his son Andy was in the audience.
He said, the lack of art history on the West Coast, especially in Southern California, allowed others during that time to create their own art, which allowed for a lot of freedom and experimentation.
According to the museum, this exhibit is the largest show at the New Britain Museum of American Art to date.
It was curated by Thomas Krens, director emeritus of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation in New York, and includes almost 100 rarely seen and popular works.
Bengston’s artwork reflects Southern California’s beach culture and his experiences as a motorcycle racer and surfer. His work can be found in exhibits worldwide, including at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
Ruscha has recorded America life for over half a century through photography, drawing, painting and literature.
His work can also be found worldwide, including in the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid.
Guests were also able to ask questions of the panel and get an early look at the exhibit afterward.
Krens said the Guggenheim missed the opportunity to do an exhibit on Southern California artists because 80 to 90 percent of the exhibitions there were of European art. He is happy he was able to do the collection for New Britain.
“[The exhibition has] extremely powerful works that speak for themselves of what it was like at the time,” he said. “All the artists’ work compliments each other in the exhibit too.”
The exhibit is open until Oct. 15 and is in the second-floor galleries of the museum.
Hours of operation are Sunday through Wednesday and Friday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Admission is free for members and children under 12, $15 for adults, $12 for seniors ages 62 and up and $10 for youth ages 13-17 and students. Saturday admission is free from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.
For more information, visit nbmaa.org or call 860-229-0257.