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Oral history interview with Toshiko Takaezu

Interviewee:
Takaezu, Toshiko  Search this
Interviewer:
Williams, Gerald, 1926-2014  Search this
Creator:
Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America  Search this
Names:
Cleveland Institute of Art -- Faculty  Search this
Cranbrook Academy of Art -- Students  Search this
Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America  Search this
Princeton University -- Faculty  Search this
Grotell, Maija  Search this
Horan, Claude.  Search this
Extent:
33 Pages (Transcript)
Type:
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Pages
Sound recordings
Interviews
Date:
2003 June 16
Scope and Contents:
An interview of Toshiko Takaezu conducted 2003 June 16, by Gerry Williams, for the Archives of American Art's Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America, in Quakertown, N.J.
Takaezu describes growing up in Hawaii in a large family; her first work as a commercial potter; working with Claude Horan; how religion factors into her work; studying ceramics at Cranbrook Academy of Art with Maija Grotell; the role of universities and apprenticeships in the craft movement; teaching at Princeton and the Cleveland Institute of Art; visiting artists in Japan; setting up a studio in Clinton, N.J.; her teaching philosophy; the evolution of her work from functional to closed vessels; the inside of her large pots; the importance of color and glazes; her career highlights; the inspiration she finds in nature; her role in political and social activities; her relationship with galleries, including Perimeter and Charles Cowles Gallery; her exhibition history; and the changing face of the American craft movement. She also recalls Claude Horan, Maija Grotell, Otagaki Rengetsu, Kaneshige, Rosanjin, Jeff Schlanger, and others.
Biographical / Historical:
Toshiko Takaezu (1922-2011) was a Japanese American ceramist of Quakertown, New Jersey. Gerry Williams (1926- ) is the co-founder and former editor of Studio Potter in Dunbarton, New Hampshire. Takaezu's birth date is also cited as 1929.
General:
Originally recorded on 1 sound cassette. Reformatted in 2010 as 2 digital wav files. Duration is 1 hr., 38 min.
Provenance:
This interview is part of the Archives of American Art Oral History Program, started in 1958 to document the history of the visual arts in the United States, primarily through interviews with artists, historians, dealers, critics and administrators.
Occupation:
Ceramicists -- New Jersey  Search this
Topic:
Ceramics -- Technique  Search this
Asian American art  Search this
Asian American artists  Search this
Asian American women artists  Search this
Decorative arts  Search this
Japanese American art  Search this
Japanese American artists  Search this
Japanese American women artists  Search this
Asian American ceramicists  Search this
Women artists  Search this
Women potters  Search this
Genre/Form:
Sound recordings
Interviews
Identifier:
AAA.takaez03
Archival Repository:
Archives of American Art
GUID:
https://n2t.net/ark:/65665/mw922563297-8b8e-452b-bb2b-c8485197f8a8
EDAN-URL:
ead_collection:sova-aaa-takaez03
Online Media:

Oral history interview with Nan McKinnell

Interviewee:
McKinnell, Nan  Search this
Interviewer:
Holt, Kathy  Search this
Creator:
Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America  Search this
Names:
Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America  Search this
Extent:
80 Pages (Transcript)
Type:
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Pages
Sound recordings
Interviews
Date:
2005 June 12-13
Scope and Contents:
An interview of Nan McKinnell conducted 2005 June 12-13, by Kathy Holt, for the Archives of American Art's Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America, in Fort Collins, Colorado.
McKinnell speaks of her childhood in Stanton, Nebraska, and summers spent on her grandfather's farm in Grand Forks, N.D.; her late husband James McKinnell's childhood in Nitro, W.V., and later in Seattle, Washington; her musical education at Wayne State Teacher's College, Nebraska; her first teaching job in Meadow Grove, Nebraska; her husband's tenure in the Navy in the early 1940s, when he was stationed in Hawaii during the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941; her move out West to stay with relatives in Seattle, Washington, and Hollywood, California; obtaining her Master's degree in art at the University of Washington while teaching music at Bryn Mawr College; her early experiences with ceramics under Paul Bonifas at Bryn Mawr; meeting her husband Jim and marrying him in July 1948; their move to Baltimore where Jim McKinnell was working for Locke Insulators; the couple's trip to Paris, France, on the G.I. bill, where Jim studied at the Ecole Nationale Superieure d'Arts et Metiers; bicycling around the French countryside on a tandem bicycle, visiting potters and pottery studios; their short stay in Vallauris, France, where Pablo Picasso was living at the time; travels to Italy, the Netherlands, and finally ending up at Penzance, in Cornwall, to study pottery with Michael Leach at the Penzance School of Art; returning to the U.S., when Jim worked for the U.S. Geological Survey, and traveling the Midwest in a trailer as part of that job; their education at the Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts, Helena, Montana, and Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, Deer Isle, Maine; living in Deerfield, Massachusetts, at the historic Bloody Brook Tavern, where they made pottery and gave tours; their first pottery shows, at Deerfield Academy, Deerfield, Massachusetts, and at America House, which became the American Craft Museum, and is now called the Museum of Art & Design, New York, N.Y.; their teaching positions at the University of Iowa, the University of New Hampshire, Colorado University, Loretto Heights College, Denver, Colorado, and the Glasgow School of Art, among others; and their time in Japan on the Hill Family Foundation Grant. McKinnell also recalls Margaret Hancock, Frances Senska, Jack Lenor Larsen, Paul Bonifas, Bernard Leach, Michael Leach, Peter Voulkos, Marguerite Wildenhain, Rudy Autio, Ruth Pennington, Clayton James, Kathleen Horsman, Edward and Mary Scheier, Nils Lou, Edward Osier, Aline Vanderbilt Webb, Ron Brown, Marilyn Scaff Humple, Paul Soldner, Karl Christiansen, Thomas Potter, Kenji Kato, Alec Lecky, Ruth Duckworth, Wayne Higby, Otto and Vivika Heino, Warren MacKenzie, David Shaner, and Gerry Williams, among others.
Biographical / Historical:
Nan McKinnell (1913-2012) was a ceramist from Fort Collins, Colorado. Kathy Holt is a ceramist and educator from Littleton, Colorado.
General:
Originally recorded on 2 sound discs. Reformatted in 2010 as 10 digital wav files. Duration is 4 hrs., 56 min.
Provenance:
This interview is part of the Archives of American Art Oral History Program, started in 1958 to document the history of the visual arts in the United States, primarily through interviews with artists, historians, dealers, critics and administrators.
Topic:
Ceramicists -- Colorado -- Interviews  Search this
Pottery -- Study and teaching  Search this
Women artists  Search this
Decorative arts  Search this
Genre/Form:
Sound recordings
Interviews
Identifier:
AAA.mckinn05
Archival Repository:
Archives of American Art
GUID:
https://n2t.net/ark:/65665/mw962040cf7-5b02-4933-8fb4-c4d96672045d
EDAN-URL:
ead_collection:sova-aaa-mckinn05
Online Media:

Oral history interview with Susan Peterson, 2004 March 1

Interviewee:
Peterson, Susan Harnley, 1925-2009  Search this
Peterson, Susan Harnley, 1925-2009  Search this
Interviewer:
Smith, Paul J., 1931-  Search this
Subject:
Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America  Search this
Type:
Sound recordings
Interviews
Topic:
Ceramics -- Study and teaching  Search this
Women artists  Search this
Decorative arts  Search this
Women ceramicists  Search this
Women authors  Search this
Theme:
Craft  Search this
Women  Search this
Record number:
(DSI-AAA_CollID)12242
(DSI-AAA_SIRISBib)247188
AAA_collcode_peters04
Theme:
Craft
Women
Data Source:
Archives of American Art
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:AAADCD_oh_247188
Online Media:

Oral history interview with Nan McKinnell, 2005 June 12-13

Interviewee:
McKinnell, Nan B. (Nan Bangs), 1913-2012  Search this
McKinnell, Nan B. (Nan Bangs), 1913-2012  Search this
Interviewer:
Holt, Kathy  Search this
Subject:
Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America  Search this
Type:
Sound recordings
Interviews
Topic:
Ceramicists -- Colorado -- Interviews  Search this
Pottery -- Study and teaching  Search this
Women artists  Search this
Decorative arts  Search this
Theme:
Craft  Search this
Women  Search this
Record number:
(DSI-AAA_CollID)12178
(DSI-AAA_SIRISBib)254296
AAA_collcode_mckinn05
Theme:
Craft
Women
Data Source:
Archives of American Art
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:AAADCD_oh_254296
Online Media:

Oral history interview with Toshiko Takaezu, 2003 June 16

Interviewee:
Takaezu, Toshiko, 1922-2011  Search this
Takaezu, Toshiko, 1922-2011  Search this
Interviewer:
Williams, Gerald, 1926-2014  Search this
Subject:
Horan, Claude.  Search this
Grotell, Maija  Search this
Cleveland Institute of Art  Search this
Cranbrook Academy of Art  Search this
Princeton University  Search this
Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America  Search this
Type:
Sound recordings
Interviews
Topic:
Ceramics -- Technique  Search this
Asian American art  Search this
Asian American artists  Search this
Asian American women artists  Search this
Decorative arts  Search this
Japanese American art  Search this
Japanese American artists  Search this
Japanese American women artists  Search this
Asian American ceramicists  Search this
Women artists  Search this
Women potters  Search this
Theme:
Asian American  Search this
Women  Search this
Craft  Search this
Record number:
(DSI-AAA_CollID)12097
(DSI-AAA_SIRISBib)256539
AAA_collcode_takaez03
Theme:
Asian American
Women
Craft
Data Source:
Archives of American Art
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:AAADCD_oh_256539
Online Media:

Oral history interview with Susan Peterson

Interviewee:
Peterson, Susan, 1925-2009  Search this
Interviewer:
Smith, Paul J.  Search this
Creator:
Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America  Search this
Names:
Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America  Search this
Extent:
63 Pages (Transcript)
Type:
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Pages
Sound recordings
Interviews
Date:
2004 March 1
Scope and Contents:
An interview of Susan Peterson conducted 2004 March 1, by Paul J. Smith, for the Archives of American Art's Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America, in Carefree, Arizona.
Peterson speaks of her parents; being raised in McPherson, Kansas; spending summers in California and taking art classes there; attending Monticello College in Godfrey, Illinois; studying art and education at Mills College in Oakland, California; teaching art at the Punahou School in Honolulu, Hawaii and at the Wichita Art Association; studying ceramics at Alfred University in New York; moving to Southern California with her husband, Jack Peterson; working at the Chouinard Art Institute and building the kilns there; teaching at the University of Southern California and meeting Peter Voulkos; and teaching summers at the Idyllwild School of Music and Arts. Peterson also speaks of moving to New York City to teach at Hunter College; opening the Clayworks Studio Workshop; creating the craft program at the Joe L. Evins Appalachian Center for Crafts in Smithville, Tennessee; doing the television series "All You Ever Wanted to Know About Ceramics;" traveling around the world, including Shoji Hamada's studio in Mashiko, Japan; attending the first American Crafts Council conference and the First World Congress of Craftsmen; publishing her first book, "Shoji Hamada: A Potter's Way and Work" and how that led to writing several other books; maintaining her own studio outside of teaching; receiving various awards; changes she sees in the craft movement and education since the 1940s; studying Native American ceramic traditions; traveling cross-country with Joan Mondale; donating her archives and ceramic collection to the Arizona State University Ceramic Research Center; and her plans for the future. Peterson also recalls Roi Partridge, Carlton Ball, Marguerite Wildenhain, Aileen Osborn Webb, Maria Martinez, Bernard Leach, Michael Cardew, Armi Ratia, John Mason, Ken Price, Françoise Gilot, and many others.
Biographical / Historical:
Susan Peterson (1925-2009) was a ceramicist and author from Carefree, Arizona. Interviewer Paul J. Smith is a curator and art historian from New York, N.Y.
General:
Originally recorded on 4 sound discs. Reformatted in 2010 as 5 digital wav files. Duration is 3 hr., 59 min.
Provenance:
This interview is part of the Archives of American Art Oral History Program, started in 1958 to document the history of the visual arts in the United States, primarily through interviews with artists, historians, dealers, critics and administrators.
Restrictions:
Transcript available on the Archives of American Art website.
Occupation:
Ceramicists -- Arizona  Search this
Topic:
Ceramics -- Study and teaching  Search this
Women artists  Search this
Decorative arts  Search this
Women ceramicists  Search this
Women authors  Search this
Genre/Form:
Sound recordings
Interviews
Identifier:
AAA.peters04
Archival Repository:
Archives of American Art
GUID:
https://n2t.net/ark:/65665/mw9b4690784-6f1f-4141-8b38-6ff8687fd501
EDAN-URL:
ead_collection:sova-aaa-peters04
Online Media:

Toshiko Takaezu papers, circa 1925-circa 2010

Creator:
Takaezu, Toshiko, 1922-2011  Search this
Takaezu, Toshiko, 1922-2011  Search this
Subject:
Tawney, Lenore  Search this
Grotell, Maija  Search this
Type:
Interviews
Sound recordings
Video recordings
Topic:
Women artists  Search this
Asian American art  Search this
Asian American artists  Search this
Japanese American artists  Search this
Women potters  Search this
Theme:
Women  Search this
Asian American  Search this
Lives of American Artists  Search this
Craft  Search this
Record number:
(DSI-AAA_CollID)8483
(DSI-AAA_SIRISBib)210659
AAA_collcode_takatosh
Theme:
Women
Asian American
Lives of American Artists
Craft
Data Source:
Archives of American Art
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:AAADCD_coll_210659
Online Media:

Toshiko Takaezu papers

Creator:
Takaezu, Toshiko  Search this
Names:
Grotell, Maija  Search this
Tawney, Lenore  Search this
Extent:
24.4 Linear feet
12.65 Gigabytes
Type:
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Gigabytes
Interviews
Sound recordings
Video recordings
Date:
circa 1925-circa 2010
Summary:
The papers of New Jersey-based ceramicist Toshiko Takaezu measure 24.4 linear feet and 12.65 gigabytes and date from circa 1925 to circa 2010. The papers document Takaezu's career as an educator and ceramicist in Hawaii and Quakertown, New Jersey, through biographical material, correspondence, interviews, documentaries, artist files, organization files, personal business records, studio practice files, printed material, and photographic material.
Scope and Contents:
The papers of New Jersey-based ceramicist Toshiko Takaezu measure 24.4 linear feet and 12.65 gigabytes and date from circa 1925 to circa 2010. The papers document Takaezu's career as an educator and ceramicist in Hawaii and Quakertown, New Jersey, through biographical material, correspondence, interviews, documentaries, artist files, organization files, personal business records, studio practice files, printed material, and photographic material.

Biographical materials include Toshiko Takaezu's biographical summaries, resumes, awards, engagement calendars, honorary degrees, business cards, and other miscellany. There are also some writings by others about Takaezu and writings by her students on various subjects.

The correspondence series consists of personal and professional correspondence with friends, family, and other artists. Noteworthy correspondents include Dan Anderson, Olen Bryant, Maryette Charlton, Maija Grotell, Ivabell Harlan, Joseph Hurley, Nobuko Ise, Ernestine Kozuma, Isamu Noguchi, Hideo Okino, Alice Parrott, Carol and Francois Rigolot, Ann Shaner, Brooke Shields, Gladys Sonomura, Barbara Tiso, Carol and Katsunari Toyoda, and Lois Wittich. There is also a great deal of correspondence with Toshiko Takaezu's siblings and mother. Also included are Takaezu's letter drafts, letters of recommendations for students, greeting cards, and correspondence related to exhibitions.

Interviews and documentaries include a wide variety of audiovisual formats from videocassettes to sound cassettes, 16mm film reels, U-matic tapes, and born digital recordings, along with transcripts. The transcripts and recordings feature Takaezu's artwork, exhibitions, workshops, and award ceremonies, but they are mostly interviews. A few recordings are about other artists or ceramics in general.

Artist files include biographical information, resumes, limited correspondence, clippings, exhibition catalogs, slides and photographs on various artists. There is also a small amount of artwork by various artists in the form of sketches, etchings, prints, and watercolors.

Organization files document Toshiko Takaezu's long relationship with various museums, galleries, universities, colleges, art schools, and other institutions across the country and in Japan. The series contains a mixture of exhibition files, project files, teaching files, and gallery records. These records document exhibitions, workshops, commissions, conferences, fellowships, and donations of artwork. The Princeton University, where Toshiko Takaezu taught for over two decades, are especially noteworthy.

Personal business records consist of documents related to Toshiko Takaezu's financial and legal affairs. There are art appraisals, contracts and invoices, inventories of artwork on Takaezu's property, price lists, shipping and transportation records, ceramic restoration reports, deeds for various properties, and other material.

Studio practice files include information on kiln construction and other equipment. There are manuals, designs, contracts, instructions, regulations, and printed material related to looms, stoves, kilns, septic tanks, oil tanks, and wells for Toshiko Takaezu's New Jersey home and studio. Other miscellaneous materials include art supplies receipts, guest books, and writings by others on the subject of pottery.

Most of the printed material is about Toshiko Takaezu, but there are a few folders on other artists and subjects, such as mycology and mushroom gathering, that interested her. Printed material consists of books, clippings, exhibition catalogs and announcements, magazines, books, and posters, etc.

Photographic material includes photographs of Toshiko Takaezu in her studio, teaching workshops, and attending various events. There are many photographs of Takaezu's artwork as well as exhibition installations and opening receptions. There are a few photographs of artists such as Lenore Tawney and Lee Nordness. Most of the series consists of photographs and snapshots, but there are some slides and transparencies as well. This series also includes born digital photographs.
Arrangement:
The collection is arranged as 9 series.

Series 1: Biographical Material, 1937-circa 2010 (0.9 linear feet; Box 1)

Series 2: Correspondence, circa 1950-2010 (6.7 linear feet; Boxes 1-8, OV 25)

Series 3: Interviews and Documentaries, 1970-2009 (2.2 linear feet; Boxes 8-10, FC 34-36, ER01-ER02)

Series 4: Artist Files, circa 1940-2010 (1.9 linear feet; Boxes 10-12, OV 26)

Series 5: Organization Files, 1952-2010 (5 linear feet; Boxes 12-16, OV 27-28, ER03)

Series 6: Personal Business Records, 1966-2009 (0.4 linear feet; Box 17)

Series 7: Studio Practice Files, circa 1956-circa 2010 (0.7 linear feet; Boxes 17, 24, OV 29

Series 8: Printed Material, 1949-2012 (2.9 linear feet; Boxes 17-20, OV 30-32)

Series 9: Photographic Material, circa 1925-2010 (3.7 linear feet; Boxes 20-23, OV 33, ER04-ER19)
Biographical / Historical:
Toshiko Takaezu (1922-2011) was a Japanese American ceramicist who was primarily based in Quakertown, New Jersey. Takaezu was born in Pepeekeo, Hawaii, on June 17, 1922. Her parents Shinsa and Kama Takaezu were Japanese immigrants and she was one of eleven children.

Starting around 1940, Takaezu worked at the Hawaii Potter's Guild in Honolulu. She later took classes at the Honolulu Academy of Arts (now called the Honolulu Museum of Art School) and attended the University of Hawaii (1948-1951) where she studied ceramics with Claude Horan. From 1951 to 1954, Takaezu attended the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, where she studied under ceramicist Maija Grotell. In 1957, she participated in the American Craft Council conference in Ansilomar, California, where she befriended fiber artist Lenore Tawney.

Throughout the course of her career, Toshiko Takaezu taught at many places. She taught at the YWCA in Honolulu, Cranbrook Academy; University of Wisconsin, Madison; Honolulu Academy of Art, Cleveland Institute of Art, and Princeton University, and other art schools and institutions. In 1966, she established a studio in Clinton, New Jersey. She taught at Princeton the longest, from 1967 to 1992, and received an honorary doctorate from the university in 1996.

In 1975, Takaezu permanently settled in Quakertown, New Jersey, where she created a home and studio. From 1977 to 1981, Lenore Tawney lived with Takaezu in Quakertown and shared adjoining studio spaces. The two continued to travel together and remained close friends throughout their lives until Tawney passed away in 2007.

Toshiko Takaezu worked with painting, fiber, and even bronze, but she is most well known for her work with ceramics. In 1955, Takaezu traveled and studied ceramics in Japan for eight months. Her work is a testament to her bicultural heritage, reflecting both Japanese influences as well as her Western upbringing, and love of nature. While her early work included many functional objects, her explorations in art led to her signature "closed form" objects, which were hollow and sealed or included tiny openings to release gases during firing.

Takaezu also exhibited widely and had many solo and group exhibitions in the United States as well as Japan. Her work is in the collections of various museums such as the Art Institute of Chicago, Honolulu Museum of Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Smithsonian American Art Museum. Among the many awards and accolades she recieved over the course of her career were the National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship (1980), being named a Living Treasure of Hawaii (1987), and being the recipient of honorary doctorates from multiple universities and colleges. Takaezu died in Honolulu on March 9, 2011.
Related Materials:
Also found in the Archives of American Art is an oral history interview with Toshiko Takaezu conducted by Gerry Williams, June 16, 2003.
Provenance:
The Toshiko Takaezu papers were donated by Toshiko Takaezu in 1978 and 2006, and by Don Fletcher, a friend of Takaezu's, in 2013 and 2020.
Restrictions:
The glaze recipes in the studio practice files are access restricted; written permission is required to view these documents. Contact Reference Services for more information.

Access to original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C. Research Center. Researchers interested in accessing born-digital records or audiovisual recordings in this collection must use access copies. Contact Reference Services for more information.
Rights:
The Archives of American Art makes its archival collections available for non-commercial, educational and personal use unless restricted by copyright and/or donor restrictions, including but not limited to access and publication restrictions. AAA makes no representations concerning such rights and restrictions and it is the user's responsibility to determine whether rights or restrictions exist and to obtain any necessary permission to access, use, reproduce and publish the collections. Please refer to the Smithsonian's Terms of Use for additional information.
Occupation:
Ceramicists -- New Jersey  Search this
Educators -- New Jersey  Search this
Ceramicists -- Hawaii  Search this
Topic:
Women artists  Search this
Asian American art  Search this
Asian American artists  Search this
Japanese American artists  Search this
Women potters  Search this
Genre/Form:
Interviews
Sound recordings
Video recordings
Citation:
Toshiko Takaezu papers, circa 1925-circa 2010. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Identifier:
AAA.takatosh
See more items in:
Toshiko Takaezu papers
Archival Repository:
Archives of American Art
GUID:
https://n2t.net/ark:/65665/mw93753cfc9-f9c0-4199-aeec-4ef36f912829
EDAN-URL:
ead_collection:sova-aaa-takatosh
Online Media:

Billy Al Bengston papers

Creator:
Bengston, Billy Al  Search this
Names:
Ferus Gallery (Los Angeles, Calif.)  Search this
James Corcoran Gallery  Search this
John Berggruen Gallery (San Francisco, Calif.)  Search this
Martha Jackson Gallery  Search this
Alexander, Peter, 1939-  Search this
Altoon, John, 1925-  Search this
Andre, Carl, 1935-  Search this
Chamberlain, John, 1927-2011  Search this
Diebenkorn, Richard, 1922-1993  Search this
Flavin, Dan, 1933-  Search this
Goode, Joe, 1937-  Search this
Lichtenstein, Roy, 1923-1997  Search this
Motherwell, Robert  Search this
Plagens, Peter  Search this
Ruscha, Edward  Search this
Extent:
10.4 Linear feet
Type:
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Interviews
Photographs
Date:
circa 1940s-1989
bulk 1960-1988
Summary:
The papers of southern California Pop artist Billy Al Bengston measure 10.4 linear feet and date from circa 1940s to 1989, with the bulk of the materials dating from 1960 to 1988. The collection documents the life and work of the artist through biographical materials, correspondence, personal business records, gallery and museum files, teaching files, project and commission files, scattered artwork, printed materials, and photographs.
Scope and Content Note:
The papers of Billy Al Bengston measure 10.4 linear feet and date from circa 1940s to 1989, with the bulk of the materials dating from 1960 to 1988. The collection documents the life and work of the southern California artist through biographical materials, correspondence, personal business records, gallery and museum files, teaching files, project and commission files, scattered artwork, printed materials, and photographs.

Found within the biographical materials series are three feet of calendars which extensively document Bengston's personal and professional activities for fourteen years, and include ephemera related to these activities. This series also includes health records, wills, and passports.

Correspondence is with galleries, museums, universities, businesses, friends, and colleagues, and primarily concerns exhibitions, sales, consignments, commissions, and Bengston's personal finances. Bengston's relationship with the James Corcoran Gallery, Janie C. Lee Gallery, John Berggruen Gallery, Martha Jackson Gallery, and Texas Gallery are well-documented here, as well as in the Museum and Gallery Files series. Also found is a limited amount of personal correspondence with collectors, researchers, and friends. A few letters from other artists, including Peter Plagens and a letter from Richard Diebenkorn are interfiled here.

Bengston's professional relationships with galleries, museums, and universities are well-documented in the gallery and museum files, including the galleries mentioned above, Ferus Gallery, and others. Lists of consignments and prices, invoices, records of sales, loan agreement forms, shipping receipts, exhibition checklists, and exhibition floor plans provide information about sales, exhibitions, and loans. A few files provide further information about Bengston teaching activities. His personal business records include art sales records, price lists, lists of purchases, records of investment, and personal finance records. Project files include correspondence, notes, and printed materials related to Bengston's commissions for artwork and personal projects, including a book he worked on with Ed Ruscha, Business Cards.

Writings by Bengston include responses to exhibitions of West Coast art and his thoughts on his career, art, the artistic community, motorcycles, as well as a recollection of John Altoon. Also found are questionnaires sent out by Bengston for an art survey, with responses from Peter Alexander, Carl Andre, John Chamberlain, Dan Flavin, Joe Goode, Robert Graham, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Motherwell, Ed Ruscha, and others. Writings by others consist primarily of exhibition catalog essays, manuscripts of interviews with Bengston, and other writings about Bengston. Also found is an essay by Walter Hopps. Photographs of Bengston include a family picture from the 1940s, Bengston at work on projects in Los Angeles and Syracuse, New York, and Bengston at social events. Other photographs consist of pictures of friends and artists, Bengston's artwork, documentary evidence of damaged artwork, and of commission sites.

Printed materials from the 1960s - 1980s include clippings, full articles, exhibition announcements and catalogs, and posters. They document exhibitions, art in southern California, and society and art events. The collection houses limited amounts of artwork including sketches, cut-outs, doodles and drawings.
Arrangement:
The collection is arranged into 10 series:

Missing Title

Series 1: Biographical Materials, 1958-1987 (Boxes 1-4, 11; 3.7 linear feet)

Series 2: Correspondence, 1966-1989 (Boxes 4-6; 1.75 linear feet)

Series 3: Gallery and Museum Files, 1961-1989 (Boxes 6-7; 1.5 linear feet)

Series 4: Teaching Records, 1968-1982 (Box 7; 7 folders)

Series 5: Personal Business Records, circa 1960-1987 (Boxes 7-8; 1.0 linear foot)

Series 6: Project Files, 1968-1987 (Boxes 8-9; 0.25 linear feet)

Series 7: Writings, 1967-circa 1988 (Box 9, OV 12; 0.25 linear feet)

Series 8: Artwork, 1960s-1987 (Box 9; 7 folders)

Series 9: Printed Materials, 1958-1988 (Boxes 9-10, OV 12-13; 1.25 linear feet)

Series 10: Photographs, circa 1940s-1987 (Box 10; 0.5 linear feet)
Biographical Note:
Billy Al Bengston was born in Dodge City, Kansas on June 7, 1934. After moving back and forth from Kansas to California multiple times, he and his family settled in Los Angeles in 1948. While attending the Manual Arts High School, Bengston became interested in art, especially ceramics. After a brief stint at Los Angeles Junior College, Bengston worked as a beach attendant at Doheny State Beach. While working there he met fellow surfer and future ceramicist Kenneth Price, who became one of Bengston's closest friends. In 1953, he reenrolled in Los Angeles Junior College to study ceramics. For the next four years he attended both the California College of Arts and Crafts and the Los Angeles County Art Institute (now the Otis Art Institute of Parsons School of Design). At these institutions he studied with Richard Diebenkorn, Sabro Hasegawa, Nathan Oliveira, and Peter Voulkos.

Around 1957, Bengston shifted his emphasis from ceramics to painting, and became affiliated with the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles, founded that same year by Edward Kienholz and Walter Hopps. Bengston's first solo exhibition was held at the Ferus Gallery in 1958, and a second followed in 1960. At this time Bengston began to work with Pop icons combined with Color Field abstractions. His early bold paintings often featured symmetrical strong color compositions with a central image of a valentine, star, cross, chevron, or iris. The irises he called "draculas," after Kenneth Price remarked that they resembled Dracula flying through a window. He first showed his chevron paintings in 1962 at the Martha Jackson Gallery in New York. In the early 1960s, Bengston extended his imagery to the California subculture and created paintings of leisure time activities, focusing on motorcycles, racing, and scuba diving - his own interests as well.

Throughout his career, Bengston experimented with technique and materials. He experimented with automobile lacquer and spray painting techniques associated with car customization. He also used non-traditional surfaces, such as masonite and aluminum. In 1965, Bengston began creating paintings on sheets of aluminum into which he hammered dents and sometimes bent and buckled; these subsequently came to be known as "dentos." Along with painting, Bengston has also created watercolors, ceramics, and furniture. He was also one of the artists selected by Carol and Roy Doumani to design their home.

Bengston first visited Hawaii in 1974, and after several subsequent trips, established a second studio there in 1979. The work Bengston created in the following years was characterized by the use of tropical colors and representational images of running figures, airplanes, and the moon. In 1988, the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston organized a retrospective entitled "Billy Al Bengston: Paintings of Three Decades," which traveled to the Oakland Museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Contemporary Museum of Art, Honolulu. Bengston also completed several years as an art instructor and lecturer at the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles and The University of California at Los Angeles. Bengston continues to create and exhibit new work.
Related Material:
Found in the Archives of American Art are oral history interviews with Bengston conducted by Susan Larsen, September 9, 1980, and Susan Ford Morgan, August 2-October 7, 2002. Also found are portraits of Bengston in the Photographs of artists taken by Mimi Jacobs collection, and a rare copy of the book Business Cards by Bengston and Ed Ruscha in the Wallace Berman papers.
Provenance:
The collection was donated to the Archives of American Art by Billy Al Bengston in 1990.
Restrictions:
The collection is open for research. Use requires an appointment.
Rights:
The Archives of American Art makes its archival collections available for non-commercial, educational and personal use unless restricted by copyright and/or donor restrictions, including but not limited to access and publication restrictions. AAA makes no representations concerning such rights and restrictions and it is the user's responsibility to determine whether rights or restrictions exist and to obtain any necessary permission to access, use, reproduce and publish the collections. Please refer to the Smithsonian's Terms of Use for additional information.
Occupation:
Painters -- California  Search this
Topic:
Works of art  Search this
Art -- Study and teaching  Search this
Art -- Economic aspects  Search this
Genre/Form:
Interviews
Photographs
Citation:
Billy Al Bengston papers, circa 1940s-1989 (bulk 1960-1988). Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Identifier:
AAA.bengbill
See more items in:
Billy Al Bengston papers
Archival Repository:
Archives of American Art
GUID:
https://n2t.net/ark:/65665/mw9100ab903-2685-4182-8e65-3886c54e0d7f
EDAN-URL:
ead_collection:sova-aaa-bengbill

Project Files

Collection Creator:
Bengston, Billy Al  Search this
Extent:
0.25 Linear feet (Boxes 8-9)
Type:
Archival materials
Date:
1968-1987
Scope and Contents note:
This series includes scattered correspondence, agreements, floor plans, notes, and printed materials related to several of Bengston's commissions and projects. Projects include the book Business Cards with Ed Ruscha, work with Mexican weavers and ceramicists, and the construction of a studio in Hawaii. Commission files are found for artwork Bengston executed for various public buildings in California, including the California State Office Building and the Prestonwood Towne Center. Also found are files concerning Bengston's Zodiac series, work on posters for the 1984 Olympic Games and the Broadway, watercolors to raise money for Jerry Brown's 1982 gubenatorial campaign, and designs for the house of Roy and Carol Doumani. Also found are a few scattered miscellaneous files concerning an exhibition held at Bengston's studio and one at the Security Pacific Bank.
Arrangement note:
Photographs related to projects and commissions are found in Series 10, Photographs.
Collection Restrictions:
The collection is open for research. Use requires an appointment.
Collection Rights:
The Archives of American Art makes its archival collections available for non-commercial, educational and personal use unless restricted by copyright and/or donor restrictions, including but not limited to access and publication restrictions. AAA makes no representations concerning such rights and restrictions and it is the user's responsibility to determine whether rights or restrictions exist and to obtain any necessary permission to access, use, reproduce and publish the collections. Please refer to the Smithsonian's Terms of Use for additional information.
Collection Citation:
Billy Al Bengston papers, circa 1940s-1989 (bulk 1960-1988). Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Identifier:
AAA.bengbill, Series 6
See more items in:
Billy Al Bengston papers
Archival Repository:
Archives of American Art
GUID:
https://n2t.net/ark:/65665/mw9546b2244-f9d6-4dca-b025-49cad69728a4
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-aaa-bengbill-ref320

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