Billy Al Bengston (born June 7, 1934 in Dodge City, Kansas) is an American artist and sculptor who lives and works in Venice, California.
He was educated at Los Angeles City College Los Angeles, CA (1952), California College of Arts & Crafts Oakland, CA (1955), and the Otis Art Institute, Los Angeles, CA (1956).
After seeing the work of Jasper Johns at the 1958 Venice Biennale he adopted the motif of a set of sergeant’s stripes. This recurring image was painted with industrial materials and techniques associated with the decoration of motorcycle tanks and surfboards. Bengston encouraged viewers in the early 1960s to associate his art with motorcycle subculture, for instance by straddling a bike on the cover of the catalogue for a 1961 show at Ferus Gallery. His interest in cars lead to Judy Chicago, one of his students, attending auto body school and using spray painting techniques. Thomas E. Crow draws attention to the deliberate contrast between Bengston’s flamboyant, competitive, aggressively masculine stance and a delicate, modest approach to his art.
He has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts (1967), the Tamarind Lithography Workshop (1968, 1982, 1987), and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation (1975). His work is found in many public and private collections, including the Centre Georges Pompidou (Paris), Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (Los Angeles), Museum of Modern Art, New York (New York), Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (New York), The Corcoran Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.), and the Whitney Museum of American Art (New York).
His first solo exhibition was at the Ferus Gallery in 1958. Bengston is currently represented by Samuel Freeman in Bergamot Station. His most recent exhibition recreated his first solo exhibition and included a scale replica of Ferus Gallery inside Freeman’s space.