Image (Self Portrait) by Don BachardyThe new Chevron Gallery, perpetrated by Carol Dunston and Steve Bren, is as posh a space as you'd expect from the scion of Donald Bren—so posh, in fact, that you probably won't be darkening its door. It's open byappointment,you know, so as to pimp artworks by California's elite to corporate titans with pockets bigger than most people's homes.
For last Wednesday's grand opening, a motor coach ferried California's most famous artists from Los Angeles to the badlands of Irvine—and if, God forefend, that bus had crashed in a satisfying inferno over a very steep and rocky cliff, it would have been, all over again, the Day the Music Died. You know: but with art.
The whole gang was there this stifling afternoon: Laddie John Dill and Peter Alexander, Don Bachardy and Tony Berlant, Ed Moses and Billy Al Bengston, and (I think) Chuck Arnoldi and Larry Bell, and they were trying hopelessly to avoid the sleek, moneyed art lovers as best they could. And of course there wasn't a girl in the bunch.
Come on, boys. Every school had at least one,if only to pose nude, sweep the studio and fetch the absinthe.
The works of these famed Light & Space playboys (and friends) are for the most part lovely, though there are a few monstrosities we were thrilled to gag over. Billy Al Bengston shows a ginormous (epic, even!) panel of his irises, in an umatchedly hideous mlange of black, yellow, red, primary blue and Silly Putty pink. They look like nothing so much as clusters of Michael Jackson's noses, clits, tongues and the requisite touch of wang. They're happily atrocious. Joe Goode's Cause&EffectPainting#5is a triptych of his singular dappled scenes. Taken apart, the individual pieces are lovely: one is a silky, luminous gray, the second a smoky, mottled blue, and the third a deep navy with gold. But looked at together, they're ill-matched, the colors not clashing so much as unable to relate to each other, like a deaf man and his two blind friends. All three are overlaid with an orange splash, like battery acid or some other cheerful corrosive.
These are men who think very well of themselves, but also of each other. And most of us are happy to second it. Larry Bell shows two large paintings that look like crumpled chrome. One has to get right up next to them to see that they aren't in fact three-dimensional assemblages but rather trompe l'oeil canvas. They're masculine, and oddly sexy, if you're into metal. And who's not?
Peter Alexander shows one of his famous resin cloud boxes, nicely complementing Frank Gehry's architectural model across the room in almost the same shade of "transparent." He also shows Urchin,a canvas in a beautiful sky blue reminiscent of Goode's huge canvases that showed at the Orange County Museum of Art a few years back and that seemed like nothing so much as an eternal, peaceful sea sleep. You can spot Alexander's Urchinas his own, though, by the blinding, speckled flashes, like the grunions running, with which he's illuminated his canvas—the same as he painted peering down from a canyon road make-out spot to the San Fernando Valley's nightscape below.
But the most exquisite part of the muy 'spensive show is a battery of pencil portraits by Don Bachardy. Each shows one of the artists in this collection, and they were drafted as far back as the early '70s. While an afternoon spent sitting for Bachardy always produces three portraits—one beautiful, how your vainest self wants to be seen; one kind of odd and off-putting; and one ferociously ugly, as if Bachardy secretly doesn't think much of you at all—all of the portraits shown here are young, creamy and as cocky as only (as Joseph Maschek once said and I never tire of repeating) "hip young dropout types . . . making fancy baubles for the rich" could have been. That brand of sun-kissed testosterone always gets rewarded.
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In Bachardy's loving portraits, Billy Al Bengston looks oddly like Pierce Brosnan. Peter Alexander is a thick-lidded and deep-eyed SaturdayNightFevergigolo. Larry Bell is a curly-haired Dionysus but with sober bearing and poise, and Chuck Arnoldi is a sexy, longhaired, pretty-mouthed Z-Boy. You can practically hear him screaming, "I AM A GOLDEN GOD!" before jumping off the roof and into the pool.
It must have been one hell of a party.
Especially with the women making sure there was enough to eat.