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Art review: ‘The Last Plastics Show' at Cardwell Jimmerson

January 15, 2010 |  8:00 pm

400.OShea_Viewing_Ball Karl Marx famously said that history repeats itself first as tragedy then as farce. He might have thought differently if he'd had a chance to see "The Last Plastics Show," an absorbing exhibition at Cardwell Jimmerson Contemporary Art.

Featuring often overlooked works by 15 of the 24 artists in the original 1972 version of the show, which was held at CalArts and organized by Judy Chicago, Doug Edge and DeWain Valentine, the current rendition is a timely eye-opener: It makes us mindful of how densely textured the present is before it gets streamlined and simplified and turned into history.

The range of works is impressively wide. Pristine pieces by Vasa, Valentine and Chicago, as well as by such all-but-forgotten artists as Greg Card, Fred Eversley and Richard Amend, give classic form to the futuristic optimism and machined sleekness that are often associated with plastic, particularly in the art of Southern California.

The vulnerability of the flesh and the transience of life come through in the spunky, process-oriented pieces by Carole Caroompas, Ed Moses and Barbara Smith.

Something stranger takes nascent shape in two light-trapping wall-works by Ron Cooper and two tabletop sculptures: a cloud-filled cube by Peter Alexander and a blue and orange sphere that resembles an oracle's crystal ball by Helen Pashgian. All use Minimalist geometry to evoke forces more mysterious than those of industrial production.400.OShea_Slab

Roland Reiss, Terry O'Shea and Edge push mysteriousness to extremes, making wacky talismans that are too beautiful to ignore yet too odd to make sense of by conventional means. Combining attractive colors, mesmerizing materials and flashy finishes with an undertow of menace, their quirky works look as fresh and alien as the day they were made. Each speaks volumes about the way the past and the present come together in art that lives in the moment and draws viewers into its orbit.

Cardwell Jimmerson Contemporary Art, 8568 Washington Blvd., Culver City, (310) 815-1100, through Feb. 13. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays.

– David Pagel

Images: Terry O'Shea's "Viewing Ball" (top) and "Slab." Courtesy of Cardwell Jimmerson Contemporary Art.