ROBERT BERMAN GALLERY presents PAID TO PLAY – an overview of the oft overlooked Southern California artists rooted in illustration, commissioned to create imagery for record albums, magazines, advertisements, et al. A genre dirtily linked to commercialism but nonetheless full of innovation, technique, artistic expression and speed.
“Fueled by a combination of intense demand, sleepless nights and brutal competition, the four men at the center of LA’s airbrush market – Dave Willardson, Charles E. White III, Peter Palombi and Peter Llyod – embarked on careers that produced iconic work for Playboy, Levi’s, the Rolling Stones, along with major studio films such as American Graffiti and Tron.” - Overspray: Riding High with the Kings of California Airbrush Art.
And the wrangler of these men was Mike Salisbury – the art director of West magazine, the Sunday supplement of the Los Angeles Times, beginning in the late 60s – who was for illustrators what Ferus Gallery was for beat artists – a platform to project Los Angeles cool to the world at large.
Though the visuals defined a generation, most west coast illustrators never landed the fine art jump with the aplomb of their east coast contemporaries like James Rosenquist, Tom Wesselmann and Andy Warhol. But perhaps the most convincing testament to the relevance of a movement largely branded as irrelevant would be the 1969 West magazine cover painted by Ed Ruscha, commissioned by Salisbury, which fetched $578,500 at auction in 2009.
Included in the exhibition are works by Willardson, White, Palombi, Llyod, Lou Beach, Pat Blackwell, Tim Clark, Dante, Sean Douglas, William George, Bill Imhoff, Patrick Nagel, George McManus, Dennis Mukai, Martin Mull, Margo Nahas, Jayme Odgers, Neon Park, Everett Peck, Mark Ryden, Todd Schorr, Millard Sheets, Tommy Steele, Len Steckler, Ben Talbert, John Van Hamersveld, E. Franklin Wittmack, Zox and others.
PAID TO PLAY is part of Pacific Standard Time. This unprecedented collaboration, initiated by the Getty, brings together more than sixty cultural institutions from across Southern California for six months beginning October 2011 to tell the story of the birth of the L.A. art scene.