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Monday, Jan. 24, 2011

Three to See in Luckystar’s ‘Modern Landscape’

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Because Homo sapiens have left their imprint everywhere, ’tis a slippery slope, this thing we call the American “landscape.” Where mountains and plains once reigned, now loom towns and cities, some crumbling and some not. It’s safe to say that much of our current landscape is far from the vast wilderness depicted by painters in the late 1800s.

Three mid-career artists with major drawing and painting skills interpret their surroundings at Luckystar Gallery, which has cut a major swath across our art scene. Lucky for us, we won’t be taking an overblown romp across woodlands and plains. I do admit the title of the exhibit, “The Modern Landscape,” tripped me up. Horrors, I thought… Is Luckystar going conservative?

Not to worry. In lieu of bovines and bluebells, there are works depicting the underside of what we’ve wrought.

Amy O’Neill (currently teaching drawing at Fisher College in Boston) links “our clean digital lives” with the idea of how we connect with others. It’s an elegant concept and her considerable drawing skills feature electrical and telephone wires, draped hither and yon among abandoned buildings.

Tom Berenz lectures on art in various Wisconsin universities and is working on his master of fine arts at UW-Madison. For him, American life is a balancing act, subject to disasters at any given moment: cars caught in floods, buildings collapsing helter-skelter, and the world awry under nature’s wrath. His style is strict realism (he paints from photographs), but his paintings have an edge that is almost otherworldly, as if disasters don’t really happen.

Of the three, painter Mike Fredrickson opts for Pop. Splashy depictions of funky places, for example Mars’ Cheese Castle and the National Liquor Bar, seedy as they are, signal good times gone, or perhaps still to roll.

This is an exceptionally strong show by three with Wisconsin roots and solid Wisconsin educations. “The Modern Landscape” runs through Feb. 26.
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