CONTACTS: Stacy Smith Publications Manager Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum 732.932.7237, extension 629 (national inquiries) Date: December 1, 2004 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE TO THE POINT: American Photorealism is featured among Zimmerli Art Museum’s winter exhibitions. Rebecca Brenowitz Community Relations Coordinator Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum 732.932.7237, extension 611 (NJ inquiries)
NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – The Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers, The State University of New
Jersey presents a diverse winter line-up that commences December 12 with its American Photorealism exhibition. This exhibition of 67 paintings includes work by 27 artists, ranging from those who helped define the Photorealist movement at its inception, such as Robert Bechtle, Charles Bell, Don Eddy, Richard Estes, Audrey Flack, and Ralph Goings, to artists who have entered into the roster of American Photorealists more recently, such as Randy Dudley and R. E. Penner. Commenting on the exhibition director Gregory Perry stated, “Photorealism has always been popular with the general public because of the remarkable technical skill of the artists involved. This survey of Photorealism over several decades also allows viewers to see that there is room for many individual approaches within the style, and a great range of subject matter as well.” In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the first generation of Photorealists stunned the art world with their highly photographic renditions of commonplace reality. Although artists have used photography as both a tool and an inspiration for their work since its invention in the midnineteenth century, the Photorealists were the first to unapologetically translate the information wholesale from one medium to the other.
In the 1960s, figurative painting as a serious art endeavor had been marginalized first by Abstract Expressionism and then by the fervor of Modernist critics who promoted a concept of pure, nonobjective art. Sidestepping the prevailing abstract trends in contemporary art, the Photorealists found more relevance in the work of the Pop artists, whose bright, brassy paintings had pumped new life into figuration, challenging though not toppling abstraction’s supremacy. But Pop painters were concerned with the connotations of their imagery, not so much the look of things, so they were often satisfied with a rough, almost shorthand approximation of their images as prototypes. The Photorealists, on the other hand, were interested above all in specificity, in portraying with loving attention to detail the uniqueness of a given moment or situation as captured by the camera. The Photorealists’ iconoclasm and their ardent engagement with both the material world and contemporary culture would seem to be quintessentially American, and many of these artists have focused on typically American aspects of our urban and suburban landscape. The trucks, motorcycles, cars, and roadside eateries so many of these artists portray may speak to the love for mobility, speed, and escape ingrained in our automotive culture, but the deadpan Photorealist delivery deliberately avoids underscoring these connotations. Far from judgmental, the evocations of the suburban landscape, whether well-maintained homes, desolate small town strips, or areas of industrial blight, are lovingly and beautifully rendered. Acknowledged as one of the major movements in American art of the 1970s, Photorealism remains a vital and engaging form of expression. The bold and brash imagery, the technical finesse, and the highly modern photographic look (the very qualities that made Photorealism shocking when it appeared on the art scene over three decades ago) are precisely those qualities that continue to make it relevant today. American Photorealism runs through March 27, 2005. Beyond the Limits of Socialist Realism: Theater Posters from the Soviet Union in the Dodge Collection opens January 3, and includes theater posters by various artists from the former Soviet Union, for whom theatrical posters provided the opportunity to go beyond the limits of Socialist Realist art. While the use of modern and contemporary Western styles and movements such as abstraction, Surrealism, and Pop Art was unacceptable to the Soviet authorities in the medium of painting, those same styles were often tolerated in theater and graphic design.
This exhibition features many examples by the Leningrad artist Igor Ivanov who created not only stage and costume designs but also numerous posters advertising his own productions. Along with theater posters produced in major Russian cities such as Moscow and Leningrad, the exhibition contains works produced in many of the former Soviet republics such as the Baltics. The legacy of the Surrealist artist René Magritte and an atmosphere of alienation and agitation are evident in the theater posters of Juris Dimiters, one of Latvia’s best known artists. Surrealism also informed the work of Dimiters’s fellow Latvian, Ilmārs Blumbergs, whose theater posters combine the use of calligraphic lines and exuberant colors with highly grotesque imagery. The theater posters on view in Beyond the Limits of Socialist Realism demonstrate the diversity of graphic styles employed by Soviet artists, whose expressive use of typography, employment of geometric abstract forms, and dynamic compositions reflect their rediscovery and extension of innovations introduced by their Russian Constructivist predecessors of the 1920s. The exhibition runs through July 31, 2005. The Zimmerli Art Museum is located at 71 Hamilton St. on the College Avenue campus of Rutgers University in New Brunswick. Hours are Tuesday – Friday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Saturday – Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. Admission is $3.00 for adults and free for museum members, Rutgers students, faculty and staff (with ID), and children under 18. Admission is free on the first Sunday of every month. The museum is closed on Tuesdays in July, and is closed during the month of August. For more information, call 732.932.7237 ext. 610.
Illustrations: Audrey Flack, Queen, 1975-78, acrylic on canvas. Meisel Family Collection, New York, NY. Randy Dudley, Railroad Bridge – Joliet, Illinois, 2004, oil on canvas. Courtesy O. K. Harris Works of Art, New York, NY. Igor Ivanov, Poster for production of Vladimir Mayakovsky’s Bania (The Bathhouse) at the Leningrad State Theater, 1981, offset lithograph. The Norton and Nancy Dodge Collection of Nonconformist Art from the Soviet Union.