Beginning in the late 1960s, photorealist artists came on the scene, using photographs as models to meticulously replicate images in minute detail and create a heightened sense of reality. A natural outcrop of the Pop movement and a conscious swing away from the nonfigurative excesses of abstract expressionism, photorealism both reintroduces the familiar and hyperactualizes it. Each area of the composition is given equal weight so the eye focuses on the whole—a democratic approach both in subject and style.
This exhibition presents a group of watercolors and acrylics on paper from the private collection of the instrumental gallerist Louis Meisel. Mainstays of the movement, many still actively working in a photorealist style today, will be on view, including Tom Blackwell, Chuck Close, Robert Cottingham, Richard Estes, Audrey Flack, Ralph Goings, Ron Kleemann, John Salt, and others. The works provide viewers with an introduction to the virtuosity of these artists in a medium that is often challenging and frequently unforgiving. We can appreciate the intimacy and immediacy that characterize works on paper—from the deft brushwork to the vibrant and luminous colors—while we take in the scenes depicted, often mundane and familiar.
The Johnson Museum is fortunate to have a significant collection of photorealist prints, drawings, watercolors, paintings, and sculpture, many of them gifts made and facilitated by Louis Meisel—the son of Sidney Meisel, Class of 1937, and Grace Moak Meisel, Class of 1941; and brother of Elliot Meisel, Class of 1968.
This exhibition was curated by Nancy E. Green, the Gale and Ira Drukier Curator of European and American Art, Prints & Drawings, 1800–1945, at the Johnson.