SOMEONE ONCE SUGGESTED that innovation is overrated, that the last person to work a certain vein in a particular art form can easily be as significant as the first, particularly if the last person's work is conclusive, and so perfect as to make any other attempts redundant. So while mythologizing your 1970s youth isn't a super-fresh idea -- see Mark Dancey's paintings at Roq la Rue (through April 7) for another solid take on it -- with The Rock Machine, L.A. graphic designer Geoff McFetridge nails what he's aiming at. McFetridge's printed fabric patterns could be the end of the artistic road for the stoner '70s, that placeless state of mind that extended, apparently, from McFetridge's youth in Alberta, Canada through Dancey's Detroit and my Iowa all the way down to Richard Linklater's Dazed and Confused Texas.

McFetridge's show focuses on three fabric prints -- Red Dawn, All Yesterday's Parties, and Stoner Forest -- which show up stretched on frames in an array of sizes, sometimes sewn together with other fabric prints for a collage effect. Red Dawn is built on a brick pattern, with images in white growing out of the mortar part of the grid. McFetridge cunningly juxtaposes several common modern-art tensions -- general pattern with specific incident, abstraction with representation, decoration with social content. He draws his imagery from both the reality and mythology of youth in suburbia: longhaired kids on bikes, sitting on curbs with slushies, passed out in their own urine; clouds appear at the top of the frame, ranch-house roofs and windows in the middle, puddles of rainwater, beer, urine, or puke on the bottom.

Graceful arcing streetlights poke like the head of the Loch Ness Monster through various parts of the scene, directing the eye around the frame and imposing a couple of receding perspectives on the flat surface. The puddles morph, at one point, into the camouflage uniforms of a little platoon of soldiers. The soldiers -- who recur in other pieces -- can be read two ways. They tend to appear at a smaller scale than other elements, so they're easily seen as the little green army men so central to boys' play of that era. They also, of course, could be real soldiers in Vietnam, an absent presence in American families with sons overseas until we bugged out of Southeast Asia in '74.

These camouflage patterns become the ground of All Yesterday's Parties, which takes place, like most of the best high-school drinking parties, in that magic corner of a local wood that the cops haven't discovered yet. The two-color camo pattern is overlaid with a pattern of party detritus -- beer cans, bottles, cigarette butts.

McFetridge's compositional skills reach their height with Stoner Forest, depicting a complex, cartoony, repeating pattern of trees and their shadows. Little animal elements poke out: more plastic army men, a guy (Boy Scout?) sleeping in a pup tent, a couple fucking in the underbrush, a monkey sitting on a branch, and Sasquatch striding through the forest. McFetridge suggests a whole range of childhood experiences of forests, again mixing myth and reality, with an economical deployment of figures -- most so small you have to look carefully to find them.

If it wasn't enough to convincingly prove that hipster graphic designers can do great art -- something I've doubted in the past -- McFetridge nails a nagging economic problem with art: its unaffordability. According to everyone from the Bauhaus to the Eameses, mass production was supposed to bring good design to the masses, though that didn't happen until the recent rise of the new Target and IKEA. High art, despite being made "in the age of mechanical reproduction," still derives too much of its value from its rarity. Here, McFetridge shows he's willing to work in mass-produced bulk, to unpreciously show his fabric in a sized-by-price progression of frames. (The patterns work at any scale, though they're best as full-size posters or large framed images, where the repetition of the large patterns is apparent.) Don't want a wall piece? The fabrics also appear as lampshades, as pillows, as furniture upholstery, and finally as a $5 poster -- a cheap evocation of a rich era.

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