Photorealism: Revisited is an art exhibition at the Mana Contemporary in Jersey City, New Jersey. The exhibit opened Jan. 12 and will go through Feb. 14, 2014. It features 60 works of art from the Louis K. Meisel Galleries and Eileen S. Kaminskiy Foundation Collections including works by photorealist pioneers Charles Bell, Richard Estes, Audrey Flack, Tom Blackwell and Ron Kleemann. One of the focal paintings for this exhibit is 68 Cadillac by Robert Bechtle, an American painter from San Francisco who translates everyday American life into iconic paintings.
During the late 1960s, an artistic movement was taking shape. Individual artists began working with photography in order to freeze an image and then systematically transfer it to canvas. The forefront of this movement was artist Howard Kanovitz’s solo New York show in 1966. However, it wasn’t until the 1970s when the name “Photorealism” was created by art gallery owner, Louis K. Meisel for a Whitney Museum exhibition catalog on Twenty-Two Realists. He regarded this group of up-and-coming artists for their contemporary style of photographic realism, and the movement was born.
Inspired by photography, Photorealism evolved from the fusion of two movements of the time, pop art and abstract expressionism. In its infancy, photorealism was criticized for lacking artistic importance. These innovative artists utilized photography instead of sketches as the fundamental element of their process, but to traditionalists, it wasn’t considered genuine art. It was deemed a trend that would end in a New-York-minute. Much to the surprise of cynics, the movement slowly started to gain ground. It flourished in the 1970s and is still seen today. American photorealism artists such as Cheryl Kelley and Anthony Brunelli are just two such examples.
In photorealism, artists study the method in which the camera observes. Photography replaces traditional practices such as thumbnail sketches and penciled roughs as the primary means of gathering visual information. Consequently, the ensuing photograph, not just its image becomes the absolute subject of the painting. The idea of reality for the artist is captured through paint, typically in oil or acrylic. Using a grid technique, the Photorealism artists focus on design elements such as texture, shape, shadows and highlights.
Photorealist works highlight American culture, emphasizing typical urban and suburban landscapes. Subject matter ranges from pickup trucks and motorcycles to diners and restaurant facades. Chrome gleams and reflections on polished windows are crisp as if they were just polished. Not just limited to transportation and buildings, other works involve comic books, toys, portraiture and unconventional still life. Paintings are meticulous detailed, and the effect resembles a large, sharply focused photograph, in color or black and white. Some photorealism artists opt to deepen the illusion of reality by amplifying the color or the scale. Works can reach as high as 11 feet in size.
The Photorealism: Revisited exhibit is open to the public with free transportation from Manhattan provided. The Mana Contemporary Gallery is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
By: Dawn R. Levesque
Meisel, Louis K. Photorealism. Harry N. Abrams, Inc. New York. 1980. (Print)