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Mike Fredrickson’s Revelation of Sight

Milwaukee neighborhoods in sharp focus

Feb. 13, 2013
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Drop in at Brewed Café (1208 E. Brady St.) for stark, meticulous realist art. Decking the walls of this cozy, studious coffee shop are the oil paintings of Mike Fredrickson. The majority of the artworks depict familiar street corners and storefronts from the Riverwest and Bay View neighborhoods, rendered in detail so acute that you can read the parking signs.

Spanning the seasons, the paintings are linked by their fabulous depictions of reflective surfaces, deep shadows and almost complete lack of human or animal figures. Asked about the latter point, Fredrickson astutely noted that, although he loves painting people, “if there were a person here, it would be all about that.” Rather, his intention in this series is to “invite you in” and to celebrate vision—in particular, the vision of ordinary places. He recalled the day in fourth grade when he first got glasses, took one look at the overwhelming beauty and intricacy of the tree branches above him and “never got over the revelation of sight.”

Employing a technique akin to illustration, he begins each piece with a charcoal “cartoon,” gessoes over it and then applies numerous thin layers of oil paint. The method accounts for much of the starkness in the works; every shape is clearly delineated and every shadow emboldened by the white base behind it.

Discussing his personal philosophy and work ethic, Fredrickson stressed the importance of maintaining various interests. (As a successful rock ‘n’ roll guitarist and singer, he has a respectable album output and plays regular gigs around town.) Having interests other than visual art feeds and sustains his dedication, making each return to it “like falling in love with the same thing over and over.” Brewed’s current exhibit, up through April 19, invites us to do just that with the locations we stroll through daily—all too often missed with our eyes downcast.


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