THE WEDGE — If the apocalypse came tomorrow, the first thing the surviving hipsters would do is loot the nearest Urban Outfitters store.
That’s the impression you get from the scruffy, plaid- and denim-clad survivors roaming the ruined landscapes of Lindsay Smith’s “Next Year,” a series of illustrative watercolor and gouache works set in a near future where society appears to have broken down, but otherwise things aren’t too bad. Radios still work, so that’s cool.
A rifle is just another fashion accessory for these young men and women who, when they aren’t rounding up the scraps of a broken society, lounge around on patterned blankets looking bored or wary, or perhaps both. It’s fall and the leaves have gone psychedelic — not just red and yellow, but purple and blue and pink.
Men sport Bon Iver beards and jean jackets. Women braid their long hair and wear cowboy boots. The survivors go naked sometimes because, really, who cares after the apocalypse? (And when they are clothed, Smith’s women prefer the high-waisted, ’80s-style jeans that came back into fashion a year or two ago.)
There are signs of strife and of a scramble for resources, something like Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road,” but nowhere near as dire. In fact, there’s a strain of utopianism in Smith’s work, of jaded urbanites reconnecting with nature and each other.
For many 20- and 30-somethings in the real world, adulthood has been a hard slog through two recessions. Jobs are scarce and don’t pay as well as they used to. Their parents’ generation maintains a firm grip on political power. Economic and ecological catastrophe may seem, especially to those who can expect to spend five more decades on this planet, like real, if not imminent, threats.
Maybe it’s possible the so-called Millenials would romanticize the collapse of civilization. But would the end really look this lush?
Smith’s exhibition is on view at Soo Visual Arts Center, which is also hosting “Point of Roughness,” an exhibition of paintings by Simon Huelsbeck rooted, but only loosely, in the real world.
Huelsbeck lives in Rochester, and his wintry, mud-streaked landscapes seem inspired by the understated terrain of Southern Minnesota, especially its wide river valleys. Surrealism intrudes on these quiet, mostly people-less scenes in the form of Mayan hieroglyphs, obscure red marks and balloons that look like they floated away from the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Most of the paintings are tiny, and their size makes them feel intimate and personal, like postcards from the State of Melancholy. In his notes for the exhibition Huelsbeck writes he has recently become a father, and his painting of a young child in snow gear is tenderly realized.
Fatherhood, though, doesn’t seem to have settled the artist’s heart. A romantic, Hudson River School-type landscape — definitively non-Minnesotan with its mountain and three-tiered waterfall — is scuffed and scratched with anxieties, including lines like this one: “Sometimes I think I should stop pretending that I am so smart and beautiful.”
Go see it
“Next Year” and “Point of Roughness” run through Dec. 3 at Soo Visual Arts Center, 2638 Lyndale Ave. S. 871-2263. soovac.org.