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Art review: '60's' at Cardwell Jimmerson Contemporary Art

July 24, 2009 | 11:30 am

A 14-artist exhibition at Cardwell Jimmerson Contemporary Art is a fantastic time capsule that travels back to the 1960s to remind visitors that thinking about art exclusively in terms of masterpieces and superstars ignores lots of good stuff, including messy experimentation, struggle, self-discovery and goofiness. Simply titled “60’s,” the fascinating, often wonderfully funky show is also a good bit of revisionist history. It reveals the depth and complexity of an emerging art scene that has still not made it into the history books.

Well-known artists are represented by eye-opening early works. An untitled abstract painting from 1960 by John Coplans shows the artist, writer and editor as a capable colorist whose interest in stiff, interlocked geometry would soften, but never disappear, over his long career. “Power Plant,” a nearly 6-foot-square canvas by Barry Le Va, evokes Philip Guston and H.C. Westermann and filters both through Le Va’s lifelong focus on the power of line and its capacity for drama.

Lesser-known artists are represented by a high percentage of first-rate works. These include Roger Kuntz’s point-blank painting of the lines painted in the intersections of busy city streets; Ynez Johnston’s raw canvas that recalls ancient cave paintings; Ron Miyashiro’s three frighteningly sexual sculptures; and John Barbour’s six hard-edged abstractions, each snazzier than its neighbor.

Worthy if not utterly original pieces by such often-overlooked artists as Tom Eatherton, Michael Olodort, Jim Eller and Stan Bitters add depth and a sense of interconnectedness to a scene defined by great inventiveness and even more back-and-forth, up-and-down dialogue.

-- David Pagel

Cardwell Jimmerson Contemporary Art, 8568 Washington Blvd., Culver City, (310) 815-1100, through Aug. 29. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

Above: Jim Eller's "Rat Garage." Credit: Cardwell Jimmerson Contemporary Art