The Reynolda House Museum of American Art had pre-pandemic plans to capture the triad with an American Photorealism exhibit, 28 of the 40 works of which were found near home in the Winston-Salem area. Covid-19 came and the project was put on hold. After two years of patience and generosity from private collectors and institutions who have pledged to collaborate on the postponed exhibition, the museum now welcomes the public Chrome Dreams and Infinite Reflections: American Photorealism. The exhibition is scheduled to run through December 31 at the museum’s Mary and Charlie Babcock Wing Gallery.
During a visit to the home of a local art collector, Reynolda House curator Allison Slaby was shocked to come across a large format screenprint of Richard Estes. It turned out that the collector she was visiting owned about 15 other works by Estes, after which Slaby realized that she had the start of an exhibition. Slaby wanted to do something with the newfound treasure and reached out to other private collectors and museums to see what could be developed. contributors for Chrome Dreams and Infinite Reflections: American Photorealism These include peer institutions such as the Gibbes Museum of Art, the High Museum of Art, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the Birmingham Museum of Art, the Weatherspoon Art Museum, and the Wake Forest University Student Union Collection of Contemporary Art.
Photorealism, born of Pop Art, is the recreation of a photograph, sometimes taken by the artist, or a print source. The artist recreates using a medium of his choice which includes acrylic, oil, screenprint, watercolor and even the use of projectors, airbrush and stamping ink. The exhibition presents a rich collection of American Photorealism since its emergence in the 1960s with works by artists such as Ralph Goings, Don Eddy, Ron Kleeman, Robert Bechtle, Robert Cottingham, Janet Fish, Ben Schonzeit, Audrey Flack, Richard McLean, Chuck Close, Jack Mendenhall and others, of course Richard Estes.
“We’re showing different artists, but Richard Estes is really the focus of the show,” said Slaby, who curated the show.
Chrome Dreams and Infinite Reflections: American Photorealism contains hubcap, one of Estes’ latest works. The 90-year-old pioneer of photorealism completed the work last year in 2021 and thanks to a generous donation from David Neill, former President of the Board of Reynolda House, and Scottie Neill, the painting is now part of the Reynolda House permanent collection. Through the donation, David Neill hopes to enable the museum to meet its collection priorities while encouraging conversation, learning, and curiosity through the museum’s art collection. Allison Perkins, executive director of Reynolda House and Reynolda Gardens, sees the acquisition as a further endorsement of the museum’s commitment to adding exceptional works by leading artists in their fields.
Combining nostalgia for the post-war boom with a profound reflection on modern life over the past 60 years, the exhibition sheds light on the often-forgotten realities of urbanity and American consumerism. The viewer is immersed in transportation environments, unusual perspectives of landmarks, window shopping, a variety of surface reflections, and still lifes where light and color reign over focused objects, as is common in Janet Fish’s work. Fish’s pieces on display initially impress with their large scale scale and soft, everyday imagery, but quickly immerse the viewer in the fine details of her focus on opacity, reflection and light.
The work of Audrey Flack and Ben Schonzeit takes a more playful approach, zooming in on everyday objects of little monetary value but potentially significant sentimental value. Robert Cottingham’s fascination with commercial signs and their power to encourage human consumption is an omen of the enduring 21st century obsession with images and
Este’s love of unusual perspectives recreates the need to look at our living environments from different angles.
In recent years, art exhibits unique to Reynolda House’s Mary and Charlie Babcock Wing Gallery have featured art signatures in both English and Spanish, making the new exhibit even more accessible to the Triad’s Spanish-speaking community. Beautifully put together, welcoming audiences of all ages and backgrounds, the exhibition is an exemplary representation of American culture through the eyes of those who pioneered photorealism. “I hope people are absolutely amazed by these works of art and that word of mouth spreads that everyone has to come to Reynolda House to see it,” Slaby said proudly.
Dalia Razo is a bilingual journalist, arts educator and PhD student at UNCG.