Sunday, November 14, 2010

Contemporary Realist Painters

"American Artist" Magazine, December, 2010
I've just missed going to church because I was engrossed in the article, "What is Genuine?" in the December 2010 issue of American Artist.  I was fascinated by it, in part because the art shown on the pages is amazing.  But it was especially compelling because it spoke about a recent exhibit called "Hard Times: An Artist's View" at the Salamagundi Club in New York City in which the featured artists were all contemporary realist painters.  Believe it or not, these artists are themselves just now beginning to gain more popular recognition for their brilliant artwork.  As you can imagine, their pieces are in direct contrast to the Modernist movement that is so in vogue.

In my previous post, I wrote about what appears to be a trend in high caliber quilt art exhibits: more non-representation work seems to be getting wall space.  Apparently, this trend has been evident in the painting world for decades and the pendulum may just now beginning to swing the other way.  Max Ginsburg, one of the painters whose work was shown in the exhibit, states, "When I was teaching in the 1970s, students would come in early and paint from life with me and a few others.  It was difficult to do.  Administrators were opposed to it; they thought we were giving students old-fashioned ideas."   Garin Baker, who also had work in the exhibit, had a similar experience.  "I remember at the beginning of my career, working in a traditional realist style was tantamount to being a 'hack' or 'lowly genre painter'.  I was thrilled to be a part of an exhibition that gave me the opportunity to show work alongside these great mentors who have demonstrated the importance of staying true to your own vision".  Mario Robinson, whose pastels and watercolors were also in the exhibit, explained that his choice of subject matter was personal choice, not a matter of social commentary.  "I'm not trying to be the big bad wolf or anything.  I'm trying to show that there's beauty in everything."

This exhibition was important to many of the artists because there are few opportunities " show this kind of work, because galleries don't think it will sell."  (Max Ginsburg)   For Burton Silverman, "...participating in the exhibition provided him with an opportunity to start a dialogue on the power of realism and traditional techniques."

This was such a timely article for me, given all the recent dialogue about representational vs. non-representational art in the quilt art arena.  If there's something to be learned from this article, it's certainly to be true to your voice, whether it's in vogue or not.  While representational art may not be the preferred method of expression, it certainly remains valid and important for any artist.  You have no control over the current trend in collecting or representation, but you do have control over your creations.

I am so sorry to have missed this exhibition, but I will try to get to the retrospective exhibition of Max Ginsburg's work that's scheduled for next summer at the Salmagundi Club.  I'm certain I will enjoy it and learn a great deal.


Natalya Aikens said...

I just received the latest ARTnews with a very realistic nude on the cover. Haven't read it yet, but sounds like similar subject matter.

PaMdora said...

I started doing cartoon quilts because I thought many of the abstract quilts looked so much alike that I thought it would be hard to make anything significant in such a crowded field.