Photorealist Perspectives on Looking, Seeing, and Painting
September 8, 2023–February 5, 2024
Appleby Foundation Exhibition Hall
The act of making a painting is equal parts magic and science. The ability to create a picture of an entirely new place, whether inspired by imagination or observed in the physical world, has fascinated people since the dawn of time. And no matter how many times in modern and contemporary art history painting has been declared passe or even dead as a creative force, painting abides.
Reflecting on the history of American Realism one can see the endless variety of approaches artists choose to record their world. Beyond the Lens: Photorealist Perspectives on Looking, Seeing, and Painting continues this thread, offering viewers an opportunity to explore a singular and still vigorous aspect of American painting.
Photorealism found its roots in the late 1960s in California and New York, coexisting with an explosion of new ideas in art-making that included Conceptual, Pop, Minimalism, Land and Performance Art. At first representational realism coexisted with the thematic and conceptual explosion, but eventually found itself relegated to the margins in terms of critical and curatorial attention. Often misunderstood and sometimes negatively criticized or lampooned as a betrayal of modernism’s commitment to abstraction, the artists involved in Photorealism nevertheless remained committed explorers of the particular trail they had blazed. In the decades of the late twentieth century and early twenty-first century, realistic and representational painting has experienced a renaissance, as contemporary artists are increasingly drawn to narrative and storytelling. Concurrently, the use of a camera as a preparatory tool equally legitimate and valuable as pencils and pens, has made the rubric of Photorealism increasingly relevant.
Photorealism shares many of the approaches of historical and modernist realism, with the exception of an emphatic reliance on the use of photography and computer programs as image capture devices, incorporating formal tactics such as detached perspective and flattened compositional space. The use of the camera as a basic tool for capturing and organizing visual information in advance of painterly expression is now quite common, but Photorealists embarked on a new way of seeing and depicting that relied on taking the photographic image, quite literally, as the starting point in the world in their creative process. What we see, how we see, and how we respond to and express visual information is at the heart of the concept of Beyond the Lens: Photorealist Perspectives on Looking, Seeing, and Painting.
This exhibition is organized by the Asheville Art Museum and guest curated by Terrie Sultan. This exhibition is sponsored by Jim & Julia Calkins Peterson.