Does realism today, in a digital age saturated with photographic images, imply that the work is in dialogue with photography? The current exhibition at Tinney Contemporary, “The New Real,” curated by gallery director Sarah Wilson, is a group show of various artists working within the realm of realism. Some of the work in the show is more photorealistic than the rest, yet all of the paintings and drawings are depicting real subjects with little to no excessive abstraction. Although as descriptive as a photograph, when one approaches each piece it becomes clear that a machine did not make the work. There are nuances and subtleties that make the artists’ hands in the work evident.
Eric Zener, one of the painters in the show, makes work that is highly realistic and from a far it is not certain to the viewer whether or not the image is a photograph or a painting. When one moves closer to the painting and looks at it intimately, it is apparent that the image was painted. Perhaps this is an important part of realism: to question whether a realistic image created by a person is more accurate or honest—because it is an artist’s attempt to capture a moment—than an objective camera lens.
Is it not fascinating to realize that a human can have the control is takes to create an image that feels photographic? The pieces are even more impressive when viewing them in real life because one can see all of the fine distinctions and the skill involved in creating such works.