The aim of ’50 Years of Realism – From Photorealism to Virtual Reality’ is to present to the Brazilian audience a rich exhibition of a few contemporary hyperrealist artists working today, some of whom are showing their work in Brazil for the first time. The exhibition includes works by some of the most renowned artists in the field such as Pedro Campos, Paul Cadden, Craig Wylie and Ben Johnson to name a few. This exhibition also includes works by some of the pioneers of the Photorealist movement of the 1960s and 70s such as Ralph Goings, John Salt, Ben Schonzeit and Richard Maclean.
The show offers a fine compendium of the themes and techniques that give Hyperrealism its character. The hyperrealist artist brought about the return of craftsmanship and draftsmanship to contemporary art, which can be seen prominently in these technically astounding works. Grounded in paint rather than theory, these paintings speak for themselves.
Hyperrealism is a distinctly modern movement with obvious antecedents in Photorealism, along with Pop Art and Precisionism. Photorealism was the total rendition and recreation of its subject, taking realism to its literal conclusion. Hyperrealism, by contrast uses the original photograph as a starting point rather than the end goal.
Hyperrealism focuses on the visual reality and beyond, standing as a strong alternative to the conceptual art which has been so dominant within contemporary art practice, it satisfies the visual needs of the viewer. Artists of this genre examine and respond to reality in a very specific way, acknowledging the camera as a tool, and answering to the possibilities it offers to capture a moment in time, and the magic of that instance. The attention to detail, immense precision and amount of skill that goes into these works of art is reflected through the monumentality and diverse subject matter present in the paintings. At times, it can prove almost beyond visual ability.
The end of the 19th century saw the birth of Photography and the effect it had on the painter, whose skills became redundant in a time when the main purpose of art was to document life, this opened new opportunities for artists as they became free to pursue other possibilities. Photography was utilised to achieve an accurate recording of reality but wasn’t acknowledged as an actual art form until the late 1960s in America.
The initial genre to directly employ the use of photography through commercial advertisements and packaging was Pop Art, followed closely by the Photorealist artists which concentrated on the characteristics of the photograph in their paintings with a visually direct approach and which used the photograph as the only reference point and replicated it to the point of an exact simulacrum of the photo including any photographic effects and defects.
The (predominantly) American Photorealists brought about the return of craftsmanship to contemporary art in the 60s, which is undeniably apparent in the technically outstanding works. The discipline lays within the paint and technical skill rather than theoretical practice, allowing these paintings to speak for themselves whilst portraying the complex diversities in American society. Some even see the rich visual content and almost excessive information present in Photorealism as a reaction to the Minimalist movement (including artists such as; Sol LeWitt, Agnes Martin and Frank Stella) which catalysed the beginning of Hyperrealism.
The term hyper-realism appeared in the early 1970s to describe a resurgence of particularly high-fidelity realism in painting and in sculptures, an exactitude which is explained with clarity in ‘Exactitude: Hyperrealist Art Today’ by Maggie Bollaert, Thames and Hudson. It was a developed idea stemming from the likes of Photorealism and Pop Art but without the confines of both movements.
Although Hyperrealism is clearly aided by the camera, these artists push the boundaries: it is just another tool as is a brush or an easel. The development in digital technology allows them to not only document minute details but also to manipulate the image using computer programs such as Photoshop creating artworks which appear more real than the real thing once painted on their canvases.
I hope this exhibition has brought you as much joy as it has for me curating it. This is an artform that has been widely over-looked within the artworld, although present through the ages, it is finally being acknowledged by museums, art critics and collectors worldwide. It is the most relevant art movement in western societies as it depicts our everyday lives and touches on subjects I believe we can all relate to. The everlasting presence and evolution of Hyperrealism is secured for as long as the human race exists.
The exhibition is organised and run by Plus One Gallery
Dates: Brasilia, Brazil: now- 28th April, Rio De Janeiro, Brail: 21st- 29th July