Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Super-Realism (Urban Mysticism) of Max Ferguson

There's a fallacy that super-realistic painting is superficial.  Someone was once surprised, for instance, that I liked many of the artists represented by Gallery Henoch (a gallery that specializes in the work of artists who prefer a very realistic painting style). She said, "Dan, I thought you liked art that was challenging and had some meaning to it."

Many people seem to think that in regard to super-realism, the medium is the message.  No; I would say that if you look at Max Ferguson's stuff, it has a kind of urban mysticism the way that Caspar David Friedrich's stuff had a natural or rural mysticism.

I think the key to taking in what Ferguson is conveying is the fact that he always paints people in a super-clean, and I mean super-duper, super super duper anti-septic setting.  Look at this guy on a subway platform.

Folks, if that platform were, indeed, that spotless, the MTA station workers would deserve their bloated salaries.

The anti-septic nature of the environment in Ferguson's work seems to create an even greater sense in the viewer of temporality.  It's the essence of city life - permanence and transition. That station is going to be there years after this guy is dead.

It's better to see Ferguson's paintings at Henoch.  I wish, for instance, I could show you a close up of the guy's face at 34th street.

Here's another example of an anti-septic stage where folks strut and fret their hour:

Yes, that' a painting.

I love this next painting of a man surrounded by books.  Even the overwhelming number of books he has piled in front of him does not disturb the tranquility established through the super-realistic style.

Is this a person who has fled the real work and lives in his books, or is this a person deeply involved in the processes of life searching for an answer?

Here's an elderly man who has stopped by his local (completely sanitized) diner to grab a bite to eat.

And here's a man absorbed in a life without the latest gadgets.

Here are 3 famous paintings by Caspar David Friedrich, who was a German "Romantic" painter of the 1800s.

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