From Lens to Eye to Hand: Photorealism 1969 to Today – Parrish Art Museum

Text and Photographs by Adel Gorgy

Top: David Parrish, Goldwing, 2016

While photography was supposed to be the death of painting when it arrived in the 1800s, and it certainly changed the medium significantly, the camera has been a boon to painters for hundreds of years. Glass lenses and panes with gridded lines helped Renaissance artists transfer reality to a surface, as did the camera obscura. No technique diminished the mastery of works by Vermeer or Durer. Neither does it for 20th and 21st century Photorealists.

Richard McLean, Western Tableau with Rhodesian Ridgeback (Trails West), 1993

Don Jacot, Herald Square, 1936 (After Berenice Abbott), 2013

The Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill, in the Hamptons on Long Island’s East End, is presenting a rare comprehensive look at Photorealist paintings in the exhibition From Lens to Eye to Hand: Photorealism 1969 to Today. Curated by museum director, Terrie Sultan, it includes over six dozen paintings and works on paper by more than 30 artists. The Photorealist movement developed in the late 1960s and early ’70s in response to Pop Art, Abstract Expressionism, and other styles. It centered in California and New York, and spread to include international and then second and third generation artists. Renowned artists like Chuck Close, Richard Estes, Audrey Flack, Robert Bechtle, Ralph Goings, and Tom Blackwell are presented through their portraits, landscapes, and still lifes that emphasize everyday materials and scenes. Cars, motorcycles, diners, food and city streets are typical subjects for Photorealist works.

As a photographer whose subject is often art, itself, the subject is of great interest to me, as well as to a wide spectrum of art lovers. I thought a photo-essay of predominantly images more than words would convey the amazing show so deftly curated by Terrie Sultan.

Roberto Bernardi, Caramelle di Cristallo, 2010

Ralph Goings, Miss Albany Diner, 1993

Ron Kleemann, Dino, 1983–1984

Included in the show are never before exhibited watercolor and acrylic paintings on paper. Their scale and luminosity differentiate them from the monumentally sized works on canvas. Watercolor is a difficult and unforgiving medium, and the precision and technique in these pieces testify to the skill of the artists. As photography changed, so did the techniques of the Photorealist painters.  Earlier works began with a photograph that was projected onto a canvas and transferred, before being painted.  As digital photography evolves and continues to, methods and approaches change, and interesting examples of those changes are visible in the exhibition.

Randy Dudley, Gowanus Canal from 2nd Street, 1986

John Baeder, Miss Worcester Diner, 1989

Rod E. Penner, 54 Grill / Vaughn NM, 2014

Raphaella Spence, Flamingo, 2012

Anthony Brunelli, Banana Lady, 2012

The show is accompanied by a 120-page catalogue featuring essays by Terrie Sultan and art historian, Richard Kalina. It runs through January 21, 2018, giving plenty of time to get out and see these rarely exhibited works by masters of Photorealism.

Parrish Art Museum
279 Montauk Highway
Water Mill, NY 11976
631-283-2118