In the mid-1970s, a group of local artists had an idea: Why not stage an art show in an underutilized old building and throw a party with live music in the opening? So they did it and a grand time was had by all. One thing led to another and in 1976 the Contemporary Arts Center (CAC) was born in a huge warehouse donated by Sydney Besthoff. Flash forward 35 years and much has changed. Most of the artists are still around, the warehouse is all spiffed up, and the CAC is part of the establishment. Then and Now, curated by Dan Cameron, explores what remains and what has changed in the art and artists that defined the center's funky but fertile early years. CAC co-founder and proto-conceptual artist Robert Tannen's new piece is an electric clothes dryer filled with house-shaped blocks of wood. Turn it on and it roars like a hurricane. His earlier work — a 54-foot-long hammock-like concoction made from steel and aluminum panels — was more hopeful, a bridge for spanning the imagination, but his modus operandi is much the same. Similarly, in Douglas Bourgeois' recent work, his subjects are as exotic as they were in his funky Twilight High Yearbook, 1978 painting of students in an imaginary Cajun high school yearbook, only now they're rendered in the dazzling style of a renaissance master on mushrooms. Robert Warrens, Jim Richard and Clifton Webb remain true to imagism, and in the work of Wayne Amedee, Dawn DeDeaux, George Dureau, Lin Emery, Gene Koss, Martin Payton and Elizabeth Shannon, evolutionary refinement amid continuity prevails. Lynda Benglis' elegant knots are still elegantly knotty, and Keith Sonnier's, circa 2009, Konsa (pictured) neon sculpture may be even more true to his baroque Louisiana roots than his work from the late 1960s, when he and Benglis helped to melt the hard edges off minimalism and launch postminimalism as an art movement.
Through June 12
Then and Now: 35th Anniversary Exhibition of Works by 14 Artists
Contemporary Arts Center, 900 Camp St., 528-3805; www.cacno.org