Thursday, October 15, 2009

Real is as real does

Photorealism is perhaps even more fun for me than realism in enjoying art. I recall my first and second shows of photorealism I saw in the U.T. art gallery in Austin during the last century. The first exhibit had every canvas containing some reference to aviation (as I recall, it was sponsored by an airline company). I was fascinated by one painting where there was an old, riveted and shiny-surfaced airplane, captured with all its reflections as in life. But the puddle below the wing of the plane (it was raining in the painting) captured the essence of a real rain puddle. It did not look like a painting of a puddle, but it looked exactly like I would see a real puddle. The difference is subtle but striking in the extreme.

The second show was even more wonderful...I recall three of the exhibited works from it like the show was yesterday: one was a canvas with a bright light shining from above the canvas from a wall-mounted lamp. The canvas was covered with painted droplets, each one captured in full, seeming three dimensions and the bright light from above was refracted in each droplet, just like the bright light above the canvas could have been expected to appear if the drops had been real.

The second work in this show was a 4x8' canvas that represented a piece of plywood, complete with grain, "boats" (the little replacement pieces shaped like boat bottoms to replace bad places in the thin sheets of wood that make up the surface of a piece of plywood), incidental drips of paint and wear places in the wood of the plywood. It was about as perfect as one could expect a painting to be. I loved it.

The third work in the show was a sculpture of a woman. This wasn't just any woman off the street: This woman had no clothing on. She was life-size, standing upright and relaxed with every pore and hair intact...right down to her eyelashes and arm hair. I would say that she attracted quite a crowd of folks who were intently trying to find some mistake on the artist's part and failing.

But this NPR photo blog piece on a modern photorealist artist, Ralph Goings, is about as good as it gets. It contains an interview with the artist on his reasons and thinking for doing what he does, and each of the eight paintings of his in the piece is preceded by the photo from his collection (he does his own photos to work from to produce the lifelike paintings) that inspired the canvas. After you see the blog piece, there is a link to small samples of the 40 years of his work on his own Web site.

Comments are welcomed.

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