Like protesting poster-maker Robbie Conal, Tom Jenkins is a Paul Revere artist out to sound the alarm. In a show of new work, he takes us on a tour of the Southern California of the not-so-distant future, and shows us where our beloved car culture inevitably leads. Engorged with pollutants to the point that it’s become a pus-filled boil in need of lancing, Los Angeles chokes on itself as Joe Public continues to drive to and fro while rusting factories regurgitate smoke and waste. Cars dominate most of Jenkins’ paintings, and he obviously considers them the evil spawning cell behind this urban disease, but the wicked automobile doesn’t shoulder all the blame. Other canvases deal with toxic spills, off-shore oil drilling and earthquakes.
Jenkins paints in a hysterically cheerful style that tends to trivialize the serious message at the heart of his work. Bright, high-contrast enamels applied to sheets of plexiglass, his work has the zany graphic quality of Northern California’s underground comic house the Print Mint, and would look right at home on the cover of Zapp Comix. Like a contemporary cartoonist’s interpretation of Dante’s inferno, these paintings present environmental disaster as a form of spectacle--really big bummers with unbelievable production values. (Karl Bornstein Gallery, 1658 1/2 10th St., to Dec. 31.)