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Recommendation: Bogdan Mamonov at Sputnik Gallery

April 8, 2010

Sometimes we write about the work of an artist and never doubt that that it’s the artist’s work that matters. Not this time. What’s important in this show isn’t Bogdan Mamonov’s paintings based on his great-grandfather’s photographs – it’s the photographs. Our apologies to Mr. Mamonov, an accomplished artist himself, who has duplicated in oils the images created by his great-grandfather.

Gregory Speer owned a French-made stereoscopic camera. It produced left-eye views and right-eye views which, if Mr. Speer had been able to superimpose them, would have created very early 3D images. One of the finest images is Mr. Speer and his  young daughter laughingly photographing themselves in a mirror. You’ll see the camera in his hands as they take their double portraits.

As an engineer, Gregory Speer’s understanding of the concept underlying the camera’s creation, which made use of plate glass images, and his pleasure in using it cannot be exaggerated. The warmth of the images of the family, in serious moments, having fun, all of the varieties of everyday life, haunts us and hurts us as we realize the loss of their lifestyle and their joy in each other.

This is not a show to take lightly. I’m not going to comment on individuals photos. As a body, they are touching, emotional and unbearably sad. They are also testaments to life.

I believe that this quiet show is one of the most important in recent years and must be seen. It bridges the various divides between Russia and the West in ways that political rhetoric will never match.

Sputnik Gallery is at 547 W 27th Street, 5 Fl., New York City. This show is open though May 1 so there is time to see it. As I said, it’s an important show which everyone interested in art, politics, humanity and their juxtaposition should experience.

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