New York City has historically been the hub for culture, setting itself apart as the city that dictates trends and success in every aspect from business to the arts. In fact, there are very few people who are not familiar with the oft-quoted mantra, “If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere;” which makes the history of the Ferus Gallery inexorably more interesting. In the late 1950s, and throughout the following decade, Los Angeles – a city as desolate culturally as environmentally – ripped through the art scene with the founding of the Ferus Gallery by Walter Hopps, Edward Kienholz, and, later, Irving Blum.
The gallery wasn’t solely the haven for arts in a city reliant on the film industry, but it became the dictum for a new style of creation and super-stardom, turning a slew of artists, such as Ed Ruscha, Robert Irwin, and John Altoon, into legends. The Ferus Gallery revolved around creation and hedonism, and although the gallery closed its doors in 1966, its influence is eternal. In a rare reunion, Ed Bereal, Ed Moses, and Larry Bell – three prominent Ferus artists – sat down for dinner at NeueHouse Hollywood, where they talked to us about everything from sexual freedom to the “secret sauce” that set apart the roster of icons who became part of the Ferus (and art) history.
NeueJournal: Do you think the freedom to create something as renegade as the Ferus movement still exists in the art world today?
Ed Moses: Of course it’ll continue. Walter Hopps sort of put it all together in this peculiar way; he brought in some really strange outsiders. Irving Blum wanted to come in, he wanted to know why all those people were in there, like Artie Richer and Bob Alexander. They stood at one of the openings one night arguing and Artie and the other guy Boza, said, “Hey man, I don’t wanna ball ya, I wanna fight ya.” And that’s what they were doing. There was this strong sexual encounter that I couldn’t even consider at the time. Only on the view I have now on the thing, I realize, “Yeah, these guys were all horny guys and they wouldn’t discriminate between if it was a man or a woman.” But they just did the women because that’s where they were conditioned, right?
NJ: Who out of the bunch was the wildest?
EM: John Altoon.
Ed Bereal: I learned a lot of stuff from him, so I got my share of women as a result.
NJ: What do you admire most about each other’s work?
EM: Every one of these people has this special quality. I call it “secret sauce,” and every one of them has that material. How are they initiated? How do they initiate? There’s a psyche, and they have this thing sort of rattling around, like two wall bearings going back and forth in their brain all of the time. These poor fuckers are walking around with those wall bearings in their heads. I’m trying to get some nomenclature.
NJ: How would you describe the color blue to a blind person?
Larry Bell: Color blue? I would never try to do such a thing.
NJ: If you could relive a moment in your life, which one would you choose?
LB: Oh, shit.
EM: I remember I fucked this little girl…
Everyone: OH MY GOD ED! OH MY GOD, NO!
NJ: Let’s ask a different question…Is there anything you look back on that you would do differently?
LB: Oh, a bunch of shit.
EM: How about everything…
EB: How about nothing…
NJ: What is the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen?
EB: That’s a Christian question.
LB: Yeah, it is a Christian question. I video taped a birth. I don’t know if it was beautiful or not, but it was fucking amazing. People coming out of people is pretty fucking far up, you know?
EB: Now that you say that, I would have to agree that just watching my three kids being born was probably…
EM: That’s so basic and biological! I can’t accept that situation at all.
EB: Well, you weren’t there.
Photography: Anthony Cabaero for NeueJournal