A freelance art critic and biographer (Full Bloom: The Art and Life of Georgia O’Keeffe, 2004) surveys 1960s Los Angeles—its artists, art, museums, collectors, social movements, sexual mores, gender politics, drugs and dissipation.
Drohojowska-Philp has done massive research to compile this generous account of a movement and its movers—not just the artists (and their biographies) but many of the personalities and celebrities and hangers-on who enjoyed the decade-long whirlpool. She begins with two significant figures: Andy Warhol, who got his first breaks in L.A. before moving to New York (later, the author tells about his 1968 shooting), and actor/collector/artist Dennis Hopper, one of the earliest to interest himself in—and promote—the revolutionary art. The author quickly examines Ferus, the first L.A. gallery to feature the works of emerging experimental local artists, and establishes it as a powerful magnet—not just for the artists but also for her narrative, which continually returns to it. Founded by Walter Hopps and Ed Kienholz in the late ’50s, Ferus quickly drew in Craig Kauffman, Al Bengston, Robert Irwin and others whose works were just too unusual for traditional galleries. Oddly, Drohojowska-Philp shows very few images of individual works early in the narrative (more appear later), but does offer photographs of the principal players. The author demonstrates clearly how Ferus and the art and artists changed as the ’60s progressed through the early years, to the Watts Riots and to the Easy Rider era of the late ’60s. Sometimes, she offers more about the artists’ sex lives than their works, but readers may accept this as a thoughtful gift, not a distraction.
Comprehensive, educative and entertaining for eye, mind, imagination and libido.