Release date:March 28, 2008
Starring:Jeff Bridges, Dennis Hopper, Frank Gehry, Ed Ruscha, John Baldessari, Billy Al Bengston, Ed Kienholz, Irving Blum, Ed Moses, Ken Price, Larry Bell, Walter Hopps, Robert Irwin, Wallace Berman, Dean Stockwell
Think the New York cognoscenti dismisses Los Angeles' art scene today? The '50s were worse. On the East Coast, Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock and Jasper Johns were blasting creative boundaries while in Los Angeles, the anti-communist brigade was stifling art that refused to kowtow to their standards of decency. Enter curator Walter Hopps and artist Ed Kienholz, who in 1957 flipped over a hot dog wrapper and scribbled a pledge to open L.A.'s premiere modern art venue—the Ferus Gallery. Over the next decade, under the stewardship of Hopps and dealer Irving Blum, the Ferus nurtured L.A.’s first generation of significant post-war artists. The scrappy artists it launched—among them Keinholtz, Ed Ruscha, Robert Irwin, Larry Bell, and Ed Moses— shook up the dull tastemakers, got arrested for obscenity, and expanded their ranks to embrace fellow innovators from across the spectrum, including Marcel Duchamp, Dennis Hopper and Andy Warhol, whose first-ever gallery show of 32 soup cans debuted there. Taking its title from a 1962 Artforum article linking the rebellious spirit and attitudes of West Coast art to those of West Coast jazz, "The Cool School" uses a wealth of archival material of the artists at work and at play and current interviews with many of the Ferus fraternity to tell the story of how the gallery groomed the L.A. art scene from a loose band of idealistic beatniks into a coterie of competitive, often-brilliant artists. What was lost and gained before the Ferus’s demise in 1967 is tied up in a complex web of egos, passion, money, and art.