In the late nineteen-sixties, a group of artists made a name for themselves in the United States by using photography as a basis for painting everyday scenes and objects with extraordinary realism. They gelled into what became known as the Hyperrealist movement, which took flight at the 1972 Kassel Documenta and remains airborne today.
Organized by the German cultural exchange agency Institut für Kulturaustausch and curated by the agency’s director Otto Letze, this retrospective features 68 works from a number of museums and private collections. The Tubinga Kunsthalle in Germany was the first venue on the exhibition’s European tour, which also includes the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid and the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, where it had a most successful showing last year.
Alongside works by the first generation of great American Hyperrrealists, including Richard Estes, John Baeder, Tom Blackwell, Don Eddy, Ralph Goings and Chuck Close, are European paintings and works from contemporary artists influenced by the movement. More than forty years after its first appearance, Hyperrealism continues to fascinate the public, many of the group’s pioneers are still painting and new artists often use techniques like slide projection and gridding when working.
Originally called Photorealism, the movement recognized as “photorealists” any artists who used the camera as an instrument in painting and transferred the image to the canvas in painstaking detail to produce an illusion of photography, devoid of any emotion and often with no people portrayed.
From Pop Art the movement inherited a passion for the icons of consumer society, the metallic surfaces of the glass and mirrors of shop windows, and the deformed images they reflected, dazzling cars and motorbikes, neon signs, the bright colours of fast-food restaurants, Art Deco architecture and all kinds of kitsch iconography. Fragments of everyday life, banal scenes and consumer goods transformed into artistic motifs.
Insignificant themes taken from the world around us, captured first by photography and then laboriously transferred to the canvas, a practice completely opposed to the immediacy of the snapshot. These mostly large works were painted with the kind of thoroughness and precision to be got from using a camera as a basic tool in the creative process and provide art of an apparently photographic quality.