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    Raw Power
by Ilka Scobie
The Pass III
Boy Kills Friend
American Beauty Chrysler
Suburban Hunting
Party Daylight

Stephen Lack, Oct. 3, 1998-Jan. 3, 1999, at the Lyman Allyn Art Museum, New London, Conn. 06320.

Stephen Lack is a figurative painter whose work invokes both a political and painterly context. The mood of his paintings, as seen in his first museum show, ranges from a familiar stillness to the brutal and confrontational. Baudelaire called it "the natural drama inherent in every man."

The exhibition is organized by Charles Shepard III, director since 1996 of the Lyman Allyn, which opened in the 1930s as a museum of landscape. The show includes 48 paintings made over the last 15 years.

People, suburbia, landscape, wrestlers, kids and cars are among the subjects that have caught Lack's eye. His edgy East Village work, originally staple-gunned to Gracie Mansion's walls, still packs a raw power. The blunt faces of Pass III (1986) have an eerie eroticism, while Boy Kills Friend (1985), a cacophony of color and violence, seems to predict the current plague of teenage testosterone.

Lack's cars, like the fin-tailed American Beauty Chrysler (1994), possess an almost pornographic beauty. Suburban scenes echo alienation, replete with manicured landscaping and new siding. Bathed in a deceptively tranquil glow, the postcard-perfect Rockleigh (1992) is punctuated by a surreal streak of mauve asphalt. Suburban Hunting Party Daylight (1997) is a perfect picture of the white middle-class opportunism that has to do with power and leverage, no matter how transitory that might be. The painting displays the gray-haired corpse like a trophy.

Lack's willful mix of figurative and abstract elements directly hits a contemporary pulse. Carter Ratcliff, in his catalog essay, refers to that masterful immediacy, "The stillness of Lack's art is an effect of instantaneousness -- of imagery caught in flight and reflected with a clarity, a legibility, that seems for a moment to suspend time and motion."

Stephen Lack revitalizes painting's power. His luminous colors and unswerving brushstroke create a truly modern art.

ILKA SCOBIE is a native New Yorker who writes poetry and art criticism.