Attention to detail overflows from Alan Magee’s tool chest.
Even at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, you can find yourself having masterpieces like van Gogh’s “Starry Night” all to yourself. The practice of looking very closely at individual paintings is the historical norm. (You can blame or thank Monet for the now-common-series-based gallery show.) In this mode, painting is the opposite of standard photography – particularly the high-focus paintings that look the most like photographs.
I was reminded of this when a painting by Alan Magee in a strong group show at Greenhut Galleries stopped me in my tracks. “Natural History” features four pipe wrenches on a neutral cream ground in which they float upright like standing figures. They vary in size in such a way that the central wrench seems largest and closest. Hauntingly, the high-focus and supremely detailed objects to the sides of the central wrench fade away at their handles to become immaterial and shadowless, like ghosts.