This story is best watched/read to the sound of The Hustle….
Ludwig Forum Aachen is quickly turning into one of my favourite places for art watching. Art anyone can enjoy and understand. Art that doesn’t bore you, art that surprises and questions. The museum is currently celebrating its 20th birthday with Hyper Real – Art and America around 1970, a show that explores American Realist tendencies in painting, photography and sculpture around 1970.
The backdrop of the exhibition is the Vietnam War and the United States’ humiliating withdrawal from the conflict, the oil embargo, the Watergate scandal that compelled Nixon to resign, the emergence of the Black Power movement, the 1979 Iran hostage crisis.
Richard McLean, Rustler Charger, 1971
Visual arts of that time saw photography becoming the leading means of reproducing reality and the reign of abstraction. Realism in painting, however, was regarded as little more than a bastard, backward and uninspired form of art that copied photographs or the reality. The view, in retrospect, appears to be greatly mistaken.
The painting of the hyper-realism and similar trends in photography and sculpture have a very documentary character but what matters for the artist is not so much to be true to the original but rather to enhance and exacerbate reality. Either literally -when the the paintings are blown up to ten or twenty times the size of the original photographic reference source- or figuratively, for example when photographers and painters focused on mundane details and unspectacular scenes giving them a certain gravity in the process.
The result is an array of city streets, shop windows, suburban houses, technology, sport, cars, families, hippies, the intertwining of painting and photography and everything that made the American way of life in the ’70s. What’s not to like in this exhibition?
Lowell Nesbitt, IBM 6400, 1965
Duane Hanson, Football Vignette, 1969
Duane Hanson, Supermarket Shopper, 1970 (detail)
Richard Estes, Bus Window, 1969
Robert Bechtle Berkeley Pinto (John de Andrea and his family next to Bechtles Car), 1976
Joel Meyerowitz, Camel Coat Couple in Street Steam, 5th Avenue, New York City, 1975
While watching Joel Meyerowitz’ photos i couldn’t stop telling myself “Wow! New York city must have been such an exciting place in the ’70s!”
Joel Meyerowitz, New York, 1974
Joel Meyerowitz, Gold corner, 1975
View of the exhibition space
Mitch Epstein, Massachusetts Turnpike
Mitch Epstein, West Side Highway, New York City 1977, From the series “Recreation”
Aside from the photos, the paintings and a few sculptures, the show also dedicates a whole room to original posters, books, magazines, movies, musical hits and records covers that allow visitors to immerse themselves into the American 1970s.
View of the exhibition space
Stephen Shore, Bedroom 208, Abandoned Cabins, Gaylord, Michigan, July 8, 1973
Stephen Shore, Johnson’s Flower Shop, 2nd St, Ashland, WI, July 9, 1973
Stephen Shore, Hamburger Steak Dinner, Redfield, 1973
Mel Ramos, Hippopotamus, 1967
Lewis Baltz, San Francisco, 1972. From the series The Prototype Works
James Rosenquist, Untitled (Joan Crawford says …), 1964
Ralph Goings, Airstream, 1970
Hyper Real – Art and America around 1970 was curated by Dr. Brigitte Franzen and Anna Sophia Schultz. The exhibition remains open until June 19, 2011 at Ludwig Forum in Aachen, Germany.
All my pictures from the show.
Previously: The Little Screens.