Photorealism began as reaction to modern and abstract art which by the late 60s had finally broken into the mainstream. It’s one of those underrated movements that to this day is still written about as some sort of novelty. I couldn’t disagree more. In fact, I associate it with Dada in the sense that it was at the time a reactionary movement against the status quo.
Of course unlike Dada which challenged the ‘meaning’ or art with meaningless subject matter, photorealism challenged the free association of abstract with completely tangible subject matter, and usually with ordinary or mundane imagery. Partly process art, partly technical, the movement was the antithesis to say, Jackson Pollock’s paint splatters.
Moving past the 70s, true photorealism perhaps lost its visual value with the advent of digital tools, morphing into hyper-realism and even branching out into sculpture (see Duane Hanson). It’s here that the work of Alyssa Monks grabbed my attention.
Her highly personal work is not only breathtaking, but it manages to work in two directions at once. Breaking the original rule of mundane subject matter for the most part, her work retains the technical aspects of photorealism and adds humanity, an approach seen in the portraits of Chuck Close. It’s more than refreshing to see artists working to blur the line between schools of art, and I look forward to seeing more artists take on photorealism in the age of digital.