These photos are actually paintings

[Put another way, it’s hard to not misperceive the role of technology while viewing these images. The story is from Wired, where it includes a photo gallery of 11 paintings]

Oil painting by Yigal Ozeri: Untitled; Aquabella, 2011

[Image: Page 222 – Yigal Ozeri. Untitled; Aquabella. 2011. Oil on paper, 42 x 60″. Courtesy Abrams.

These Photos Are Actually Paintings

By Jakob Schiller

Louis K. Meisel likes to let you know that he doesn’t care for famous graffiti artist Jean-Michel Basquiat’s paintings — which sell for millions of dollars — because he thinks they don’t show much skill.

“People don’t buy Basquiat’s work because they like what it looks like,” Meisel says. “It’s all a big distortion.”

What Meisel does like is a genre of painters called the Photorealists. They’re painters who take photos and then create realistic copies of the photos on canvas.

For decades he’s been collecting, selling and promoting the Photorealists and he’s also produced four different books that document this art movement. The final segment of the series, Photorealism in the Digital Age, was released this year.

For Meisel, the Photorealists’ value lies in their technical proficiency and quality. Using various techniques, this relatively small group of artists have figured out how to make paint into their own version of emulsion.

He’s such a large part of the genre that he came up with a five-point definition to clarify exactly what exactly qualifies as Photorealism. The rules are:

  1. The Photorealist uses the camera and photograph to gather information.
  2. The Photorealist uses a mechanical or semimechanical means to transfer the information to the canvas.
  3. The Photorealist must have the technical ability to make the finished work appear photographic.
  4. The artist must have exhibited work as a Photorealist by 1972 to be considered one of the central Photorealists.
  5. The artist must have devoted at least five years to the development and exhibition of Photorealist work.

Some Photorealists’ paintings are highly detailed but still obviously paintings. Others are so skilled that you’d never know you were looking at a photo if someone didn’t tell you, or let you stand nose-to-canvas. This difference is doubly difficult to discern in many of these images, and the meta-layer burrito of posting photos of paintings of photos which cannot be discerned as paintings is not lost on us.

Meisel argues that quality and detail have long been centerpieces of the art world and that Photorealist paintings will likely hold their value much longer other art forms.

“The so-called cultural elite may from time to time confuse the issue, but eventually truth will endure,” he writes in the new book. “Anything imbued with quality will be cherished and preserved to teach the future about the past, as has happened throughout history. So be it with Photorealist paintings.”

From a photographic perspective, many of the images are mundane snapshots that look like they were taken with a point-and-shoot. The meticulous feats that must be undertaken to reproduce them on canvas, however, somehow elevate them to something more.

There are several ways the painters transfer the photo image to the canvas including projection, gridding and tracing. Because the works are so laborious, Meisel says these painters are much less prolific than other artists and sometimes only produce a couple paintings each year, or just one painting every couple years.

“Which is why so few Photorealists have emerged over the past five decades,” he says.

In the 21st century, Meisel says artists have embraced any new camera and computer technology that will help them in their pursuit. Some are using new software or computers that let the more accurately transfer the image from the photo to the canvas, while others are embracing high-speed cameras and the ever increasing resolution of digital sensors.

“While the originators legitimized the use of the camera and the photograph once and for all, the newest generation has now taken it to the point where the most advanced means are employed to assist the artist in the gathering information and transferring it from reality to the representation of reality on canvas,” Meisel says.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

ISPR Presence News

Search ISPR Presence News: