A reliance on photography as a source for painting makes possible a startling and potentially off-putting amount of hyper realistic detail in a new show at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art. But it doesn't prevent the 38 artists in the “Photorealism Revisited” exhibition, organized by International Arts of Memphis, from also creating a surprising subtlety and variety of content in their work.
The 64 works in the exhibit, which includes prints, watercolors and drawings as well as paintings, date from the late 1960s, when the term was coined by gallery owner Louis K. Meisel, to the present.
Anthony Brunelli offers us a slightly elevated view of public buildings on a green square in Binghamton, N.Y., which includes traffic on a highway leading to distant hills, in a large, well-composed 1996 oil canvas.
A strong element of nostalgia for vintage cars and the nocturnally lit marquees of 1930s movies, adds greatly to the appeal of an equally accomplished 2012 oil of “Times Square, 1937,” by Don Jacot.
Reflections in mirrored glass and windows give an impersonal, distanced feel, to two smaller acrylics of people-free street scenes by Richard Estes, known for capturing the “hard-edge quality of urban surfaces,” according to a gallery note.
Combining pedestrians, cars, reflections and tall buildings, with clouds passing over them, masterfully, is a large 2011 oil of “57th Street” by Robert Neffson.
One seems to be looking through arched windows at delicately rendered views of Central Park in winter, spring, summer and fall in “The Seasonal City,” a four-part 2007 acrylic, using air brush and multi-layering, by Don Eddy.
Debris behind a Dumpster contributes to the gritty realism of Randy Dudley's 2005 oil of “Restoration of South Canal St., Chicago,” as does the burned roof of a building in Robert Gniewek's 2004 oil of “Edmond Place, Brush Park.”
Female figurative subject matter provides a refreshing change of pace from all the architectural focus in part of the gallery space devoted to the show. A nude woman appears to be exploring the boundaries of the illusionistic box in which she is seated in a black-and-white 2003 acrylic on wood painting by Spanish artist Bernardo Torrens, to name a case in point.
Oklahoma City artist Dennis James Martin (1956-2001) brings his own kind of magic realism to a 2000 metalpoint of a woman, who seems as precious and mysterious as the gold and platinum materials used to depict her.
Wonderfully cheesy are Hilo Chen's 1976 and 1982 oils of the back side of a glamorous woman bathing and of a topless female, trying to improve her tan at the beach. A beautiful woman meets our eyes with mock alarm as she holds her cheeks in a round 2009 acrylic by Hubert DeLartigue called “OMG!”
Audrey Flack includes a burning candle, lipstick tubes, cupcakes, rainbow-hued dabs of paint, and a charming story about a youthful Marilyn Monroe discovering makeup at an orphanage, in a collagelike 1978 oil and acrylic painting.
Animal subjects are dealt with, brilliantly, in Peter Maier's large, glassy-surfaced painting of the head of a tiny “Chick,” and in Richard McLean's oil of a work horse and a dog at a stable (tended by two employees with their bag lunch).
Still life paintings, many of them influenced by Pop Art, are another strong element in the show, including Roberto Bernardo's oil of candy sticks in a glass jar, and Ralph Goings' oil of two doughnuts leaning on a coffee cup.
A winged “Art Angel” hovers over devil-like toy figures and eight planetlike marbles circle a larger marble sun in deftly executed 1986 and 1994 oil paintings by Tulsa native Charles Bell (1935-1995).
David Parrish relies on toy figures rather than actual people — a James Dean-like “Rebel” and a “Bass Man Cookie Jar” — in two large oil canvases, done in 2008 and 2006. Italian artist Luigi Benedicenti does a good job of combining portraiture with still life in “Sara Solitario,” a 2011 oil panel of a thoughtful young woman in scanty attire sitting beside a picture of a luscious fruit tart.
Chuck Close supplies two head-and-shoulders portraits — a black-and-white 1986 etching of his wife “Leslie,” made with fingerprints, and a 2004 silk-screen of “James,” that seems to consist of a host of tiny abstract compositions.
Dealing admirably with our fascination with shiny and not-so-shiny objects, ranging from motorcycles and trucks to vintage, luxury and racing cars, are works by Goings, Maier, Tom Blackwell, Ron Kleemann and Cheryl Kelley.
Detail is less obsessive, too, in Susan Sykes' small 2008 watercolor of people standing in front of the brightly lit facade of the “White House, December 7, 1941,” as cars drive by in front of them. Bringing to mind a cool, contemporary version of “The Last Supper” is a second small work by Sykes, called “Violet Cafe No. 2.”
The touring photorealism exhibit is highly recommended during its run through April 21.
— John Brandenburg