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The Cool School (WS)

3.6 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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(Mar 16, 2010)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

THE COOL SCHOOL is an object lesson in how to build an art scene from scratch and what to avoid in the process. Narrated by actor Jeff Bridges, the film focuses on the seminal Ferus Gallery, which groomed the LA art scene from a loose band of idealistic beatniks into a coterie of competitive, often brilliant artists, including Ed Kienholz, Ed Ruscha, Craig Kauffman, Wallace Berman, Ed Moses and Robert Irwin. The Ferus also served as launching point for New York imports, Andy Warhol (hosting his first Soup Can show), Jasper Johns and Roy Lichtenstein as well as leading to the first Pop Art show and Marcel Duchamp's first retrospective. What was lost and gained is tied up in a complex web of egos, passions, money, and art. This is how L.A. came of age.

Review

All told and well told, this is essential history. - Nathan Lee, The Village Voice --The Village Voice

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Jeff Bridges, Edward Ruscha, Dean Stockwell, Dennis Hopper, Eddie Moses
  • Directors: n, a
  • Format: Color, Full Screen, Letterboxed, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    NR
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Arts Alliance America
  • DVD Release Date: July 29, 2008
  • Run Time: 86 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0019K4YQQ
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #271,412 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Cool School (WS)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
I found this documentary by chance. I'm thrilled that it exists. But it is kind of a disappointment. For a documentary about visual art, it's not particularly easy on the eye. And for a documentary about visual art, it doesn't include much discussion of art or even much art. The cover seems to promise an affectionate look at a handful of "cool" California artists (John Altoon, Craig Kauffman, Allen Lynch, Ed Kienholz, Ed Moses, Robert Irwin & Billy Al Bengston are the ones that appear on the cover photo, but the group also included Larry Bell & Ed Ruscha) that gathered together in the late fifties in Southern California and began creating art before Southern California had an art scene. But instead of foregrounding the half dozen or so "cool" California artists living in a boheme paradise & creating a new kind of art (which explored/incorporated/appropriated car culture & other industrial/commercial forms & contents, exhibited a frank anti-romantic attitude toward sexuality, and displayed an irreverence toward previous art history and toward NY art scene seriousness) the filmmakers foreground Ferus Gallery co-founders Walter Hopps & Irving Blum. These two may have provided the gallery space, but poverty and lack of attention from the outside world is what kept the group together; and the lure of fame & fortune is what tore it apart. That's the real story here, and the essence of their brand of California cool & detachment. If only the documentary had focused less on Hopps & Blum & the Ferus Gallery & more on the actual artists & art work & what relation the work had to Southern California culture/independence/attitude/cool this could have been a real masterpiece. There's a little of that, but not nearly enough.

The doc will be most interesting to those with an interest in the sociology of artistic collectives/movements.
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Format: DVD
This is a cut-and-paste documentary that rambles and flip-flops its way to the end. The filmmaker offers appetizers, but manages to keep his intended audience away from the main subjects. A forced reunion of artists in their old age intermingled with periodic comments by a self-important Dennis Hopper doesn't exactly make for a good show. Initially, what drew me to "The Cool School" was the fact that it was bringing attention to an art scene which has long deserved to be showcased on film. I was excited to learn more about Ed Kienholz, but before any substantial information builds up about any of the artists, the film switches gear to focus on Walter Hopps. Walter Hopps corralled these artists with his Ferus Gallery and helped to bring them nationwide recognition, but the heart of the documentary should center on the artists and their works, rather than the man/men who acted as their keepers. The crowning achievement on this disc is the bonus feature on Ed Kienholz where he's explaining his artistic processes while casting a naked, clueless interviewer from the waist down, and later, from the waist up with wet plaster.
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Format: DVD
Kristine McKenna and Morgan Neville's film aims to show us how "LA learned to Love Modern Art." They make their case via a singular focus on the troubled, erratic curator (the late) Walter Hopps and suave opportunistic gallerist Irving Blum and their joint venture, Ferus Gallery, in the early 1960s. The modern artists that LA learned to love include Edward Kienholz, Ken Price, Ed Ruscha, Billy Al Bengston, Craig Kauffman, Ed Moses, John Altoon, Larry Bell and Robert Irwin. The strength of this documentary is the gathering of vintage photography and film from the Ferus "group."

"The Cool School," however, is premised on a false conceit, and merely repeats the 30 year old publicity-tinged received wisdom that LA crossed the threshold into embracing modern art with Hopps, Ferus and their stable only in the early 1960s. This anti-historical claim is easily overturned by consulting the real modernist art history of Southern California.

A-list Modernist art was being done in Southern California since the 1920s by such pioneering modernists as Stanton McDonald Wright; and during the 1940s by abstractionist Lorser Feitelson and his wife, the surrealist/abstractionist Helen Lundeberg. All three were active into the 1970s. Serious modern-friendly galleries included the Stanley Rose Bookshop and Zeitlin & VerBrugge on La Cienega Blvd. (later, LA's gallery row); other modernist galleries included Earl Stendahl, Frank Perls and the very notable Jacob Landau.

The post-war period saw the rise of artists like Rico LeBrun (arrived in LA, 1938 - and in 2012, still no retrospective exhibition!), his pupil Howard Warshaw, and the anti-fascist Hungarian émigré social surrealist, Francis DeErdely, who taught at USC.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I liked this documentary. I was expecting it to be more about the Ferus Gallery (since that is the subtitle) and it was spot on. I think they did a great job with the probably limited amount of footage about the subjects from that time. I am glad I could get this film on DVD. I had little idea about American art at this time, especially on the west coast. It will be worth watching a few times over the years as I see more exhibits.
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