Art: View from the Coast

The "Los Angeles look" has been visible in American art for years now. It is both unmistakable and hard to define. Developed by a generation of Southern Californian artists who became nationally known in the early and middle '60s, it is cool, elaborately finished and somewhat hermetic: craftsmanship pursued as a form of meditation.

At one end of the spectrum, the Los Angeles look can be seen in Billy Al Bengston's "dentos"—crumpled aluminum sheets with depths of shimmering, candied and gaseous sprayed color trapped under layers of glossy acrylic. At the other, it is...

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