Gerald Ferguson


Gerald Ferguson


"Seated Woman"


Oil on Canvas

45 x 48 inches

Signed Verso

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Gerald Ferguson is best known as one of Canada's most important conceptualist artists and pre-eminent educators.  Born in Cincinnati in 1937, Gerald Ferguson completed his Master of Fine Arts at Ohio University in 1966, and has been an active artist ever since.  While in school, he was exposed to the current trends of the art world, which included neo-Dadist works influenced by artist Marcel Duchamp. He says he was impressed by Duchamp's notion that an artist could make art out of anything.

He taught at Wilmington College in Ohio and at the Kansas City Art Institute before going to Nova Scotia in 1968.  

In the late 1960s, Ferguson became interested in making art with "the lowest common denominator that was readily available and could be expressed in material form." (Ferguson 1994:15) He decided to use the alphabet and typed words and letters on paper to create artworks. He eventually reduced his work to the simplest unit he could find: the period. When taken out of the context of language, the period becomes a "dot." Ferguson covered canvases, such as the National Gallery's Untitled(1969), with dots using a template he constructed out of a house plasterer's corner beading. Acting like a typewriter, he repeated the dots in a grid pattern. Despite Ferguson's methodical application, the grid is not perfect. In the application of the paint, the intensity of the dots are accidentally varied showing that this is a human creation, not a mechanical one.

Ferguson's works are represented in many important collections throughout Canada, the United States and Europe, including the National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa), the Museum of Modern Art (New York) and the Museum Sztuki in Poland.  He has received solo shows at numerous institutions including the Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto), the Winnipeg Art Gallery and the National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa).

In 1995, Ferguson received the prestigious $50,000 Molson Prize for Visual Art.  His work, Rocks and Bushes (2008), part of his final series of landscape paintings created in homage to American painter Marsden Hartley, was exhibited at Wynick/Tuck Gallery in Toronto in 2009, the year of his death at age 73.