Thursday 23 December 2010

Richard Estes - photorealist

Following on from my post on Chuck Close I thought I'd take a look at some of the other artists associated with photorealism. Richard Estes (born1932, Kewanee, Illinois) is another famous photorealist artist. His paintings generally consist of reflective, clean, and inanimate cityscapes. He is regarded as one of the founders of the international photorealist movement of the late 1960s, with such painters as Ralph Goings, Chuck Close and Duane Hanson.

At an early age, the Estes family moved to Chicago where he studied fine arts at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago between 1952 - 56. He frequently studied the works of realist painters such as Edgar Degas, Edward Hopper, and Thomas Eakins, who are strongly represented in the Art Institute's collection. After he completed his course of studies, Estes moved to New York where for the next ten years he worked as a graphic artist for various magazine publishers and advertising agencies in New York and Spain. During this period, he painted in his spare time. He had lived in Spain since 1962 and by 1966 was financially able to give up the day job.

Beginning around 1967, he began to paint shopfronts and buildings with glass windows and more importantly, the reflected images shown on these windows. The paintings were based on colour photographs he would take, which trapped the evanescent nature of the reflections, which would change in part with the lighting and the time of day. Estes' paintings were based on several photographs of the subject. He avoided using famous New York landmarks. Though called a photorealist I personally think that his paintings have an edgy feel. He uses the language of Edward Hopper - often a deserted urban environment, free of litter, but stuck in another time dimension – I think of them more as photo-surrealist.

Tuesday 21 December 2010

Chuck Close self-portraits

This post is the last in my mini-series on self-portraits and it's an important one. Chuck Close is one of the world's leading contemporary artists, originally associated with the Photorealists movement in America. The next series of posts will take a look at other Photorealists.

Close suffered a devastating spinal infection in 1988 that left him a quadriplegic. Since then he has developed an extraordinary technique using a complex grid-based reconstruction of the photographs that he works from - typically portraits of himself, his family and friends - to create really large-scale works. He has also been creating photographic montages on enormous sheets of Polaroid paper amongst many other techniques.

Charles Thomas (Chuck) Close was born in Monroe, Washington in 1940. He graduated from the University of Washington in 1962 and from Yale in 1964. He was the 1997 UW Alumnus Summa Laude Dignatus - the highest university honor for one of its graduates. Close's work is included in the collections of numerous museums, including the National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.), the Museum of Modern Art (New York), the Guggenheim Museum (New York), and the Tate Gallery (London). The New York Museum of Modern Art held a special exhibit of Close's paintings and prints in 1998; the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York held an exhibit on Close's prints in 2004.

This first self-portrait dates from 1967-8 and the second image shows the impressive scale of it.



 1987 Polaroid - look at the scale below



Detail of the above - if you squint you'll recognise the eye


 (Date unknown)

 2005 Polaroid

 2006 Tapestry

 2007 Screenprint

2008 Collage

Pressed pulp (date unknown)

 Note: A number of images have been removed by me from this post on possible copyright issues. Poul Webb

Sunday 19 December 2010

Andy Warhol self-portraits

We all know that Andy Warhol (1928-1987) was a bit, no a lot, of an enigma, even to people close to him and those of us who knew him even a little. I spent some time working with him, and if a man could get through a day without saying much at all, that was Andy. Luckily he had front men - the late and charming Fred Hughes oversaw things at the Factory and made things work. It was a fascinating time in New York looking back - Gerard Malanga was making the silkscreen prints, Paul Morrisey was making  films, featuring people like Joe Delassandro (who would sometimes man the front desk) and the lovely Viva Superstar who on meeting me for the first time said "Well, you never WHO you're going to meet on the third floor". I've still no idea what she meant.

Andy Warhol's self-portraits occupy a central position in the artist's body of work. He’s best known for his iconic portraits of Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley and Jackie Kennedy. In his self-portraits however we see him as he saw himself, or as he wanted to be seen. The works are portraits of the artist's masks and their ambiguity lies in whether they are, in fact, accurate representations of the real Warhol or simply a means of deception - an act in pursuit of privacy.

Every portrait projects both a vacancy and an allure, but essentially a superficiality that appears to betray no clear feeling. The artist's face drifts or stares blankly as if bored by the attention. In averting the gaze of the viewer, Warhol seems to deflect analysis and confrontation, both craving and scared of the attention at the same time. When he cast himself next to Hollywood's most famous, his own worth of celebrity was questioned - he had become well known by association with other famous people and by depending on the kindness of photogenic strangers.