In the late 1960s and early '70s, Terry O’Shea (1941-2002) made some great works of art that are doubly invisible. They are either ignored (as they were by the official organizers of Pacific Standard Time), or treated like cute little sidekicks to the big guns of resin — artists such as John McCracken, Craig Kauffman and De Wain Valentine, who put Los Angeles on the map by playing fast and loose with conventional distinctions between painting and sculpture.
In a small side room at Craig Krull Gallery, a nifty little exhibition of 14 tiny sculptures and five page-size drawings suggests that if O’Shea were alive today he’d prefer to have his works ignored than treated as souvenir tokens of the good old days.
Measuring only 3 inches long, O’Shea’s multicolored, multilayered resin sculptures resemble pharmaceuticals — not the mass-marketed products churned out by big drug companies, but one-of-a-kind, highly customized versions that look as if they were made by a renegade in a basement lab, each with the precise desires of a particular recipient in mind.
Likewise, O’Shea’s wispy drawings, made of various dyes dripped onto sheets of paper, recall one method of delivering LSD.
But the most important feature of O’Shea’s art is its furtive, even fugitive quality — its refusal to trust any intermediaries that might come between maker and user, artist and viewer.
O’Shea’s sculptures are tiny and his drawings elusive because neither seeks the spotlight nor strives for the headlines. Even when displayed publicly, their effects are invisible, buried deep within the labyrinths of individual imaginations, psyches and minds.
This is underground art at its best: fully visible yet accessible only to those who dig it.
Craig Krull Gallery, 2525 Michigan Ave., Bergamot Station, Santa Monica, (310) 828-6410, through Aug. 31. Closed Sun. and Mon. www.craigkrullgallery.com