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humanities 347 university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 1, winter 2003/4 that exceeds the critic=s now legally circumscribed bounds? A more qualified version of it could surely have passed muster. Is it this kind of statement that Munro criticizes (and McCaig=s prefatory material cites) as one of the >bizarre assumptions= of the essay? To pursue this angle is to wish for the pseudo-biographical rather than the academic and, despite Munro=s apparent fears, this is not what McCaig=s book is about. >Alice Munro= as she is (de)constructed by McCaig=s reading is no less authoritative for being literally a product B of her times, her gender, her nationality, her mentors, her marketing, her generic >habitus,= her class and class-consciousness, her ambivalence about being a product, and so on. McCaig doesn=t venerate or denigrate; she analyses intelligently, and her scope is truly masterful. If the archives exist to be read, it is this kind of reading that serves them best. (CASIE HERMANSSON) James Patten and Diana Nemiroff. Gerald Ferguson: Recent Paintings Winnipeg Art Gallery. 136. $20.00 In 1999, accomplished writer, teacher, and artist Gerald Ferguson began producing a series of large abstract paintings. As an artist who came to prominence in the late 1960s through his thoughtful and systematic experiments in minimalism and conceptualism, large-scale abstraction with touches of expressive flourish may seem like an odd turn B not odd in a sad way like Frank Stella=s >late style= of neon and glitter in the late 1980s, but odd nonetheless. However, Ferguson=s primary medium has always been painting, even when he is interrogating it, demystifying it, and questioning its exalted place in commodity culture. The recent series was created by a process called frottage or rubbing in which Ferguson arranged various hardware store materials (clothesline, rods, hoses, rope) beneath his canvas and then ran a blackened paint roller over top. Gerald Ferguson: Recent Paintings accompanied an exhibition of forty of these paintings organized by former Winnipeg Art Gallery curator James Patten. The catalogue does not so much fill a lacuna, as Ferguson has been blessed with several serious, if small, catalogues befitting his equally serious and engaging experiments with painting and its history. However, this catalogue offers a particularly lucid and accessible pair of essays, a complete set of decent reproductions of the paintings in the exhibition, and five illustrations of important examples of Ferguson=s earlier paint and installation art. Patten=s essay, >Like Painting,= is remarkable for avoiding the usual pitfall of heavy jargon that befalls those writing about conceptually based art. His primary concern is with the intricate and experimental process Ferguson used to produce the frottage paintings, thereby mirroring Ferguson=s own priorities. Rather than simply pointing to Ferguson=s painterly and critical 348 letters in canada 2002 university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 1, winter 2003/4 innovation of frottage and then proceeding with his own analysis, Patten patiently walks the reader through Ferguson=s (rather obsessive) efforts to find materials with the properties he desires and to adjust them to meet his purposes by cutting and arranging them. In conveying, and then exhibiting, the physical and intellectual struggle of Ferguson=s trial and error, Patten powerfully demonstrates, rather than alludes to, Ferguson=s commitment to reveal painting as a practical medium full of life and deconstructionist potential. When, at the end of the essay, he addresses the way frottage complicates the already fraught relationship between the real and its referents, the analysis seems firmly grounded in the work. The second and slightly longer essay, >Late Style in the Work of Gerald Ferguson,= is by National Gallery curator Diana Nemiroff and was previously published in the Journal of Canadian Art History. Nemiroff sets out to consider the notion of a >late style= and its theoretical problematics. However, in this context, her essay serves primarily as a counterpoint to Patten=s. Nemiroff traces the long span of Ferguson=s career and the larger artistic and social milieu in which he has functioned, stopping at precisely the historical moment in 1999 where Patten begins. Nemiroff=s essay also ensures that the larger catalogue can...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 347-348
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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