Hyperrealism: Is It Real, Or . . . ?
In a semi-dark room, if it hadn’t been for the strategic use of spotlights, I might have had trouble distinguishing the art from the art viewers. Such is the nature of the show Hyperréalisme: ceci n’est pas un corps, (or Hyperrealism: this is not a body), seen at the Musée Maillol during a recent trip to Paris .
“Woman and Child” (above) is not a photograph, nor a painting, but a fully-realized three dimensional sculpture by artist Sam Jinks. If you stood next to it and the eyes opened, or if the baby whimpered, you might be startled but not totally surprised. It is that good. The exacting detail in the exhibition’s thirty-five or so pieces and the eschewing of impossible beauty standards—meaning these works look like average folks, with freckles and wrinkles and receding hairlines—make you believe you could reach out and touch warm human flesh.
An oversized, aged hand by Valter Adam Casotto protruded from a wall. It’s my grandma’s hand, I thought, draped in her rosary, each bead waiting to be rolled between finger and thumb. In fact, the catalog revealed it to be the magnified hand of the artist’s grandmother, her history written into every vein and wrinkle.
Many years ago, the Hood Museum featured an installation by Tony Oursler in which an odd, doll-like sculpture of a woman lay in a heap on the floor, as if she had fallen there. The figure rasped in anger in an entirely human voice, demanding “Don’t look at me.” And then again, and again, with greater volume and antipathy. I remember feeling frozen on the spot, not able to look away but afraid to continue looking, and certain that either choice was wrong. Well, I thought, at least the figures in the Paris exhibition weren’t actually looking at and talking to me.
Cue the next gallery and “Jonathan” by Glazer/Kunz sitting in his wheelchair (above). Odder in a way than Oursler’s because Oursler’s fallen woman seemed at least to acknowledge the viewer, to engage in dialogue. This sculpture is talking to a third party, part of the time on the telephone. It doesn’t demand our attention at all, as if it/he is living its own life whether we come around the corner to view it/him or not. He couldn’t care less.
Note: The museum had scheduled times specifically for groups of nude patrons to view this exhibition, prompting even more inevitable comparisons between life and art. At this time it appears that no further such viewings are available.
Watch artist Sam Jinks at work on “Woman and Child” and other pieces (the precision with which he creates and places each individual hair on a leg!) by clicking here.
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And in case you are wondering . . . Susan B. Apel shuttered a lifelong career as a law professor to continue an interest (since kindergarten) in writing. Her freelance business, The Next Word, includes literary and feature writing; her work has appeared in a variety of lit mags and other publications including Art New England, The Woven Tale Press, The Arts Fuse, and Persimmon Tree. She connects with her neighbors through Artful, her blog about arts and culture in the Upper Valley. She’s in love with the written word.