Documentation of the 1960s Southern California plastic artists may be as minimal as their aesthetics, but certainly does not approach their innovation. Searching through my archives, I discovered a thin little jewel from 1972 called "The Last Plastics Show" that had been organized by Hastings Plastics, the fabricators of many of these artists’ works. Usually, these lists tend to draw from a repeated band of insiders. To my delight, a number of new names crept up warranting exploration. Names like Greg Card, Linda Levi and Vasa had appeared in Bonhams "Made in California" sales, but had not found their way into any of the exhibition catalogs that I had come across. I felt like Indiana Jones in the Search for the Lost Plastics!
“Industrial man—a sentient reciprocating engine having a fluctuating output, coupled to an iron wheel revolving with uniform velocity. And then we wonder why this should be the golden age of revolution and mental derangement.”
—Aldous Huxley, Time Must Have A Stop, 1944
With the flick of a switch Industrial Man turns on the machinery to forge the object. There is transference of imperfect energy, a static electricity that injects the object with a soul. The joyous mishap is where the art happens.
The speed of technological advancement over the last decade or so barely pierces the psychic consciousness of jaded society’s Millenials. They look at cassette tapes the same way my generation might look at an ancient fossil. The artists in The Very Last Plastics Show (TVLPS) began making work in the mid-60s, a time when minute incremental innovation wasn’t buried under twitter feeds and multi-spastic-tasking. Wake up and smell the plastic! When this revolutionary group of SoCal artists drew inspiration from the smog-smudged signage of Los Angeles, moronic critics dismissed them as “bobbles of the rich.” Plastic was an industrial material used for manufacturing. Luckily the aerodynamic sexiness of the space age and the emerging surfboard shaping culture and the flame throwing hot rods, instilled coolness in to these pedestrian materials, stirring up a wave of Plasticians.
The translucent and reflective properties could be blown, sucked and cast into objects that “emulated” rather than “depicted” Californian atmospheres and liquid alchemy. Color fused with light exploded the limitations of pigment, blinding the detractors like staring into an eclipse.
Peter Alexander, Larry Bell, Lynda Benglis, Greg Card, Judy Chicago, Ron Cooper, Ronald Davis, Laddie John Dill, Linda Levi, August Muth, Terry O’Shea and Vasa exalt the intrinsic splendor and simplicity of these materials. LESS IS MORE.
The Very Last Plastics Show: Industrial L.A. 1965 to the Present will be on view at Dorfman Projects, 529 West 20th Street, 7E and Nyehaus, 39 East 67th Street, PH5 from May 10th to July 31st, 2014.