From a dramatic maritime scene, to two secret
service officers hiding behind a car, to a nude woman surrounded by canines,
the works featured in “Contemporary Realism
” at Cavalier Galleries
are certainly eclectic. When understood in the context of American realism
, and hyperrealism
, however, they form a cohesive exhibition, representing the varied
interpretations of realism.
emerged in 19th-century France as an attempt to
objectively depict quotidian life. Almost a century later, in 1969,
“photorealism” was coined by art dealer Louis K. Meisel to describe paintings
that emulate sharp, focused photographs. Hyperrealism emerged in Europe shortly
after. French philosopher Jean Baudrillard famously wrote
in 1981 that the term referred to “the
simulation of something which never really existed”—in other words, visual
works characterized as hyperrealistic offer compelling illusions of reality.
Carole A. Feuerman
(2013) provides a stunning example of hyperrealist sculpture.
Making use of oil, resin, and Swarovski crystals, Feuerman renders a female
swimmer in a seated meditation. Little droplets dot the figure’s skin and
glisten brilliantly, echoing in form and luster the crystalline cap around her
head. The subject is relatively believable: a woman who finished a swim, hopped
out of a body of water, and fell perfectly into a lotus position. But the
extreme shine of her lamé suit and the orange sheen of her skin remind viewers
that the figure is not real, but in fact an embellishment of reality.
(2014) by Deon Duncan
relates to Feuerman’s work in surprising ways.
Duncan’s sculpture is a swimsuit-clad figure positioned in a traditional way,
but reinterpreted with a fresh, contemporary twist. Suspended in midair with his palms
spread open, the subject of Blue Lotus
could easily be understood as a
crucifix if not for key modern details: a swim cap, goggles, and a speedo. The
corporeal feel of the piece—realized particularly in the figure’s protruding
ribs and articulated tendons—is compelling. But just when we are almost
convinced of this visual reality, an impossible blue wash spreads from the
figure’s toes to clavicle, reminding us of the bronze materiality of the piece.
With Scott Duce
’s painting Vessel Kora
(2011), the classic realist themes of landscape
and still life
mix with an enthusiastic
application of trompe l’oeil
. The images in the frame—a landscape painting over a counter with a
ceramic bowl—provides the viewer with a sort of picture-in-a-picture,
referencing quite pointedly the tradition of illusionary painting. An uneven,
red background seems to be rendered in the spirit of Rothko
, as an emotional embodiment of color. In this sense, Duce engages not
just with traditional landscape and still life representations, but with the
innovations of modernist painting. In this exhibition, the tension between
illusion and reality is best explored when artists from diverse mediums
commingle and their contemporary interpretations of realism emerge together.
Realism” is on view at Cavalier Galleries, Greenwich, Connecticut, Oct.
23–Nov. 16, 2014.