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Monday, Nov. 19, 2012

Barrickman’s World

The serious and the lighthearted at Green Gallery

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The world is awash with information. For example, painter Peter Barrickman’s résumé, posted online at thegreengallery.biz, tracks his considerable national and international credentials. A 2002 BFA from UW-Milwaukee and a 2007 MFA from Bard College attest to the “serious” side of an artist whose work, at first glance, seems as lighthearted as “Leave It to Beaver.”

Lucky me to own one of his large works (Cave), purchased from Green Gallery East. Sparse and modern, it speaks of youth and stereo speakers booming bass in a space dripping with hot pink stalactites. It strikes me as very 1960s. Barrickman’s current exhibition at Green Gallery East, “Guesthouse,” is a continuation of the everyday things he observes in his Milwaukee life: a street scene, Bradford Beach where the Kissing Rock used to be and, well, you get his drift. To know his work is to dig his work, and do I dig it? Yes, I do.

Two from 2012 with titles from television soaps, Days of Our Lives and The Young and the Restless, dominate the front gallery. The latter work, spackle on board, is a buff-colored assemblage of scraps that appear to be from a demolished wall. There is a sameness about the scraps (much like our lives?), until you examine the marvel up close. Here and there in the jumble of shapes, a color other than buff defines the edge of a jagged ledge. Days of Our Lives is the first time I’ve ever seen a Barrickman painting rendered primarily in black oil paint. He saves the day by electrifying it with silvery slivers suggesting static on a television. Is he saying our lives are confused by signals jumbling the pattern, scrambling it and leaving us wondering what it’s all about? Barrickman adores patterns, and I admire him most for the terrific way he teases viewers into assembling his thoughtful puzzle parts.

The back gallery is an adventurous exploration of ghostly figures, painters of historical note, who seem to be sitting under cover with painter Barrickman. Like furniture draped for the winter because the owners of the guesthouse have fled from summer on the beach, the images wait silently for the artist to reveal their future fates. These are purely pivotal images. I can’t wait for their next installment.

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