In the Galleries &ndash Where Are You Now? CLOSES March 31 at Duane Reed Gallery 

The lure of the open road is a distinctly American preoccupation that never fails to abide as the ultimate existential metaphor. St. Louis-based photographers Barclay Hughes and Matthew O'Shea embrace the inevitable with an atmospheric suite depicting two-lane blacktops, night-lit gas stations and overgrown highway shoulders that feel like an extended homage to this unkillable genre. Coupling the two bodies of related but distinct work serves both well: Hughes' crisply narrative scenarios are balanced by O'Shea's more abstract meditations, each providing alternate elements of mood and action in what could be construed wholly as stills from a single, brooding film. In Fenton (Hughes) a woman leans against her car in an otherwise-empty parking lot, watching as her child plays in the lamplight. O'Shea's Illinois Overpass frames the setting sun in a rearview mirror, a depth-of-field ploy echoed in the car's hazily out-of-focus interior giving way to a sharply rendered flat landscape beyond. Both artists fully exploit the (presta)digital medium to create a hybrid of the observed world and the one they wish to conjure; Hughes, for instance, may blend up to 100 photos to reach his intended destination. Yet despite the technological whiz-bangery, both artists are classicists at heart: light, mood and beauty still prevail. As does that indefatigable temptress, the road. Even the most jaded observer can't elude its thrall — not when the most ordinary day can deliver a wild spectacle like a sunset or a woman's contemplative face. Through March 31 at Duane Reed Gallery, 4729 McPherson Avenue; 314-361-4100 or Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tue.-Sat. and by appointment.

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