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"Tessa" (oil on canvas, 24 by 24 inches) by Lindsay Frei on display at Phillips Gallery.

It's obvious Joe Carter and Lindsay Frei relish dipping their feet in the Neo-Pop pool: Their exhibit of paintings at Phillips Gallery, on display through Feb. 8, splashes pop sensibility all over the place, albeit without the customary parody or agenda.

Carter's art of largely everyday objects mischievously proclaims, "Maybe I am trivial, but admit it ... you like looking at me!"

We do.

And Frei's still-lifes and portraits simply electrify the gallery space.

Their art offers photo-realism quality executed in the best contemporary fashion with flawless technique.

Moreover, it's clear both artists can draw as well as they paint.

"Drawing is a big deal to me," Carter writes in his artist statement. "I like to get it right. The time spent on drawing isn't lost when I add paint; the time used to get a passage just right isn't wasted, even if I scrape it off and do it again. Everything contributes to what can be seen in the end."

His "Radio" (oil on canvas) is a perfect example: A painting of old radio tubes standing as if for a portrait. The detail of filaments, plastic and glass astounds, as does the reflection of light off the elements; it's draftsmanship par excellence.

In "Old Pencils" (oil on board) Carter beguiles. How is it we can almost smell the well-worn wood and chewed, dirty erasers? His paint application mimics that found on real pencils with remarkable assurance, which makes the piece all the more enjoyable.

When you see "Rex" (oil on canvas), examine the lower left and right hand corners of the canvas. The dinosaur on the left apes the wrench on the right, with both being dwarfed by the painting's main subject: a wrench rendered with incredible detail. Carter explains that when his daughter saw the painting of the wrench, she said it looked like a dinosaur, so he added one.

"I'm a bit obsessive with my subjects," he says. "They've got to sparkle or have humor or something. I know it when I see it."

Frei's "popishness" results from more than just her subject matter and the way she treats it: It's also in her cropping. She uses the edges of her canvas masterfully, both in her still-lifes and her portraits.

Her "Porcelain Pot" (oil on canvas), intriguingly framed within the confines of the canvas, is so spatially cozy you experience instant visual balance and pleasure. Add to this her paint application and use of color and the harmony of the piece becomes very Zen.

"A theme that runs throughout my still life paintings is the exploration of our relationships with objects," Frei confides in her artist statement.

She knows we leave our physical mark on the "toys, dresses, books, dishes, furniture, etc." we use during our life. But she is also convinced that these often mundane objects leave a mark on us, too.

As good as her still-lifes are, Frei's portraits have immediate visual impact, again, because of their unusual composition, sumptuous color and skilled draftsmanship.

The best of the lot is "Tessa" (oil on canvas). This 24-by-24-inch painting seizes your attention with the rendering of the subject's eyes and mouth. Tessa gives us a "pulp peep," as it were, from the 1940s or 50s. It's uncanny and terrifically painted.

Other excellent portraits are "Messy," "Shades" and "Cover Up," (oil on canvas).

Carter and Frei's exhibit of paintings at Phillips Gallery is truly a must see.

E-mail: gag@desnews.com