Fine Art Connoisseur September/October 2018, Editor’s Note:
By Peter Trippi
For well over a decade, artists, curators, and collectors have debated whether the term “contemporary realism” makes sense generally, and speciﬁcally to folks who don’t know much about what we do. Though some say names don’t matter, I disagree — “branding” is everything in our society, so if people can quickly grasp who you are, things just work better.
When you browse Fine Art Connoisseur, you’ll see lots of representational artworks made recently. By “representational,” I mean representing something recognizable. It’s a mouthful of a word, and not exactly enticing, so generally we use “realist” or “realism” instead. Problem is, “realism” has encompassed so much over time that it’s hard to visualize what it is now — is it the peasant scenes made by Gustave Courbet in the mid-19th century, the gritty visions of city life painted by John Sloan or Edward Hopper, the slick surfaces of 1960s photorealism, the meticulous draftsmanship of 1990s classical realism? “Realism” is far from perfect, but it’s what we’ve got in our vocabulary for now.
More easily replaced, perhaps, is “contemporary.” How about “modern” instead? Purists say that “modernism” started in the late 19th century, reached its apogee during the mid-20th century, and lost its mojo in the 1980s. That may be true technically, but “modern” sure still has currency in the wide world. Every generation considers itself modern, and it’s no accident that Modern Family has been a hit TV series since 2009; it is literally too old to be modern anymore, but we know exactly why it retains that name.
In the art arena, “modern realism” has been uttered by quite a few experts over the years, referencing an array of artworks that we love here at Fine Art Connoisseur. The Smithsonian American Art Museum used it to describe the marvelous Sara Roby collection it exhibited in 2014. The thoughtful curators at London’s Tate galleries use the term regularly, as does the British-born, Michigan-based scholar Alex Potts. Not surprisingly, the American scholar John Wilmerding has used “modern realism” to describe the world of Edward Hopper and Andrew Wyeth, among other masters.
Does any of this matter? Possibly not, but I think it’s helpful to stir the pot every now and then, to remind everyone that the exciting art now being made across America (and indeed the world) will be better appreciated if “new-comers” know what to call it. Perhaps there’s something snappier about “modern realism” than “contemporary realism,” so please mull it over and let me know what you think.
Finally, I would like to welcome to Streamline Publishing Scott Jones, our new associate publisher and Western regional marketing manager. Scott recently joined our team after 10 successful years as general manager of Legacy Gallery in Scottsdale. Scott is an accomplished public speaker and art juror, and I am particularly looking forward to collaborating with him at the Figurative Art Convention & Expo (FACE) this coming November. Welcome aboard, Scott!Download the September/October 2018 issue here, or subscribe to Fine Art Connoisseur today so you never miss an issue.