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Review – Max Ferguson at Gallery Henoch

November 15, 2010

I was delighted to learn that Gallery Henoch was doing a solo show of Ferguson’s work, running through December 4.

For the record, Henoch is a lovely venue at 555 W 25 St. which concentrates on realistic painting. They have a superb roster of artists which includes Steve Mills and Steve Smulka, each of whom has created one of my favorite paintings. So I had high expectations for Ferguson’s show, since Henoch’s shows are unfailingly excellent

Ferguson works by taking photos (he refers to them as snapshots) of what he intends to paint. Then he sets about replicating the photos in paint on canvas.

Photography is naturally a realistic medium. It’s very exciting to see photographers use their cameras to create stunning abstract pieces, e.g., works by Pascal Cornier or Bruce Panock (both available on TheSecondHanging.com – have to toot our horn!). These photographers are stretching their medium, an exciting evolution.

What I don’t understand is why a painter wants to create work that looks like a photograph. They are different media with different characteristics and different emotional results in the viewer.

By definition, especially for this artist, the photograph of the image exists – created before the painting, rather than as a record of the painting. Painters have the luxury of imbuing their work with mood, suggestion and emotion. We expect paintings to affect us emotionally, to give us something of a sense of wonder, to make us marvel at the talent which created them.

Unfortunately, Ferguson’s show was boring. His paintings really did look like snapshots, not particularly interesting but sometimes clever, except for the portrait of the owner of the Strand Bookstore surrounded by stacks of books.

All of which begs the question – what’s the point of recreating snapshots in oil? Conclusion – must be the selling price. Disappointing. Ferguson has talent – would love to see him explore that talent.

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