Monday, January 21, 2008

The Photorealists

OK . . . I am going to diverge a bit again today as work progresses on the drawing board on another of the pieces for this summer's show at the Woodson. This one, which I will post an in progress shot of tomorrow (when there is actually something to see!) is a rather large scale work, for me, 'weighing in' at a mighty 15" x 16". OK, that may not sound terribly large to you painters who tend to work in the dimensions that are usually measured by feet! But, for me, that is a good sized work. And this one is especially 'large' in the sense that it is quite involved and full of 'stuff'. Actually, when all is said and done, there will be very little of the paper surface showing through, so a lot of graphite will be layered on this one.

In any event, on to what I want to talk about in today's posting . . . the Photorealist painters of the 1960s and 1970s.

Not a completely, unique American genre of work, Photorealism took hold here during those two decades and I have to say, influenced me quite substantially, whether I knew it at the time or not!

As I have mentioned in earlier postings here on the blog, when I was in art school, I had been convinced that I was going to become the next Picasso and my work, in oil at the time, emulated not only the influence of Picasso but any number of the other Abstract Impressionists of the time. Figurative work was the farthest thing from my mind, at that time, and I can look back on those days now and be quite bemused at my stubbornness and total immersion in abstraction (often much to the chagrin of my painting teachers!).

But, it is now quite obvious to me that other influences were tickling the back of my mind, stashing themselves away for future reference. Fast forward to my work today!

Lately, I have been revisiting the work of many of the prominent artists of that period of time, the late 60s when I was in art school and the early years of the 70s when I was working in Manhattan and visiting galleries and museums and 'taking in' what was going on in New York City and the art circles there at the time. Even though Hopper was a bit earlier in his output of impressionist/realist painting, visiting the National Gallery showing of his work a few months ago, really set this all in motion for me; got me thinking and rethinking about the influences on me as a young artist growing up with all the splash and clashing of art movements from the late 50s onward.

And, the upshot of all that 'thought'? . . . I was more influenced by the Photorealists than I could have possibly known or reacted to at the time when I was in school and shortly thereafter. It all has come to some fruition now, in my graphite works.

The realist aspect of my work, as I have commented about here and elsewhere, does not, I believe, override the fact that I feel that I am still working within some boundaries of abstraction on many of my works, especially the body of work that has been in 'the works' for the forthcoming solo this summer. By introducing the man-made into my work, something which I had not done nor was I of the desire to have done, say six or eight years ago, has given me a means by which to add that bit of my 'old artist self' to my current work and use light and shadow and textural differences and variation in view point and focus, to meld all that I was as a young artist to all that I am now as a mature artist.

Presented here, today, are several examples of Photorealist artists whose work has absolutely inspired me, influenced me and subconsciously been there within me for the last forty or more years. There were many who participated in the movement back forty years ago, but these three artists rise to the top of my short list of major 'influencers'. Above, Audrey Flack and her colorful crayons! And immediately below, two terrific works by Ralph Goings.

And then, there is Richard Estes, perhaps one of the best known and my favorite of the group.

And so, I shall, I guess, continue to reach back into the recesses of my mind, dig around for inspirations that found a place to hide all those many years ago, quiet and patiently waiting, waiting for the opportunity to come to the surface, be pulled into the light on my drawing board and take shape in my work.

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