Plastic Man, the Artful Life of Jerry Ross Barrish (2014) Documentary · 5 October 2014
Jerry Barrish was the product of an environment that little appreciated the finer arts, much less the wildness of modern art. His hardworking, San Francisco Jewish relatives were boxing enthusiasts vaguely connected to the mob. It was these connections that got him started in the bail bonds business. Then he broke the mold, becoming the bailout guy for radical sixties protesters. Inspired by the times, he went further afield, delving into art collecting, and then launching himself into the arts as a filmmaker. Barrish's long and circuitous route as an artist always on the verge, rubbing shoulders with the successful and celebrated, while never quite breaking through, is the dramatic tale told in Plastic Man, the Artful Life of Jerry Ross Barrish. It finds him at a seeming artistic standstill about 25 years ago, living next to a trash-strewn beach in Pacifica, California. Creative by necessity, he begins collecting the detritus - especially the plastic - and assembling it into whimsical, evocative, poignant human and animal figures. Barrish reassembles his life as a sculptor but hits another snag - the art world approves the imagination but scorns the material. Barrish's beloved plastic won't do for the world of commercial galleries. In search of wider recognition, he decides to apply for a commission to create an outdoor sculpture for San Francisco's Hunter's Point. If he receives the commission, he will be forced to confront his biggest fear: transitioning materials from salvaged plastic to outdoor-suitable bronze. Will he risk losing his voice as the Plastic Man and become "just another bronze artist?"
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