There are painters who take inspiration from what they know about painting, and others who thrive on what they don’t know. But in some of the most interesting cases, know-how and naïveté become strangely tangled in a felicitous inconsistency: The artist does not appear to be steadily pursuing a consistent and intelligible project but striking out, almost haphazardly, in different directions, succeeding as if by so many lucky hits. And yet somehow everything seems to add up. Of course, anyone who repeatedly pulls off such a feat is not relying on luck but on a wily artfulness.
These days when I think of that kind of cannily mercurial painter, figures like Tal R, Merlin James, and Nicole Eisenman come to mind. Now I’m happy to have a new name to add to the list, that of Milwaukeean Peter Barrickman. The twenty-six works on canvas, panel, or paper in Barrickman’s recent show exhibited
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