Art Styles: Photorealism Art

Photo Realism is a figurative movement that emerged in the United States and Britain in the late 1960s and 1970s. The subject matter, usually everyday scenes, is portrayed in an extremely detailed, exacting style. It is also called super-realism, especially when referring to sculpture.

As a full-fledged art movement, Photorealism evolved from Pop Art and as a counter to Abstract Expressionism as well as Minimalist art movements in the late 1960s and early 1970s in the United States. It is also sometimes labeled as Super-Realism, New Realism, Sharp Focus Realism, or Hyper-Realism.

Photorealist painting cannot exist without the photograph. In Photorealism, change and movement must be frozen in time which must then be accurately represented by the artist. Photo realist's gather their imagery and information with the camera and photograph. Once the photograph is developed, the artist will systematically transfer the image from the photographic slide onto canvases.
Chuck Close's first solo exhibition included a series of enormous black-and-white portraits that he had painstakingly transformed from small photographs to colossal paintings. Close's large, iconic portraits are generated from a system of marking which involves painstaking replication of the dot system of the mechanical printing process. The portraits he produces, utterly frontal, mural-size, and centered in shallow space, replicate the veracity of a photograph and undermine the objectivity of photography at the same time, critics say.

Chuck Close reproduced and magnified both the mechanical shortcomings of the photograph, including blurriness and distortion,and the flaws of the human face: bloodshot eyes, broken capillaries, and enlarged pores.

To make his paintings, Chuck Close superimposed a grid on the photograph and then transferred a proportional grid to his gigantic canvases. He then applied acrylic paint with an airbrush and scraped off the excess with a razor blade to duplicate the exact shadings of each grid in the photo. By imposing such restraints, Close hoped to discover new ways of seeing and creating.

"Big Self-Portrait" (1967-1968), is, indeed, big (nearly nine by seven feet). Chuck Close used acrylic paint and an airbrush to include every detail. This painting took four months to complete. Big Self-Portrait, in black and white, was the first of Close's mural-sized works painted from photographs. To make this work, Chuck Close took several photographs of himself in which his head and neck filled the frame. From these he selected one of the images and made two 11 x 14-inch enlargements. 


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