Billy polishing an artwork
“NO WORK SHOULD BE BETTER THAN OTHERS. SIMPLE. NO FAVES, NO JUNK.”
As for Al Bengston’s approach for the invite designs, it is as direct as the man himself: “My approach is consistent. Do not crop or add on to any of my images and do the best you can.” Blunt yet honest, Billy’s words are what you could call candidly encouraging. So, Saint Laurent used his already existing work in the invites and nothing was intentionally created entirely for the brand? “Yep,” he says, “never saw any in person.” So what does Al Bengston think of the collection itself? Does he feel that Saint Laurent have captured the essence of the California Surf culture that has been so relevant to his life and work? After all, he has the first-hand knowledge of it. His response is brief but self-explanatory: “Surf and Culture don’t blend. `dunno and don’t care.” But, one may say this answer somewhat ironically embodies the carefree feel that Slimane intended for the line to have.
With regards to his current practice, he mentions: “Practice… I got sixty-five years of that behind me. I think a little bit. I do, I look, I do.” Environment is inevitably exemplified in an artist’s work, and much of Al Bengston’s work is flamboyant and colourful, meaning his artistry must tend to portray the years of his past that were indeed, filled with Californian vibrancy, as opposed to the reflection of a colourless, barren land he may have seen in those dustbowl years. His ‘survivor’ attitude and the ability to take great joy from his life is admirable. Asked if any particular pieces of his own collection are either favoured, or have more meaning to him, he tells us his rule: “If it ain’t right and it can be fixed, fix’er.” And on certain works ranking higher than others: “No work should be better than others. Simple. No faves, no junk.”