Photorealism show opens at Butler Trumbull

Art lovers who prefer their paintings to look specifically like something are in for a big treat at the Butler Institute of American Art Trumbull Branch.

The Howland museum is one of two locations featuring “Photorealism Revisited: The Louis & Susan Meisel Collection,” a traveling exhibit featuring more than 60 works – many of them large-scale paintings – by some of the top names in contemporary realist art.

Butler Director Louis Zona said he jumped at the chance to bring the show to the Mahoning Valley.

“Audrey Flack, Don Eddy, Mark Goings – they’re all in the Butler collection or have had exhibitions here,” Zona said. “Peter Maier – he’s had one or two exhibits here. Chuck Close is in it. He may be, arguably, America’s greatest living realist painter. It’s literally a who’s who of contemporary post-war realism, either artists who directly use photography or artists who are inspired by photography.”

Historically, the Butler is known for its traditional realistic painting collection, and in recent years the music has tried to exhibit and acquire post-World War II works with an eye toward photorealism.

“It does two things,” Zona said. “One, it satisfies our thirst for narrative painting, and two, it helps fill out the Butler’s contemporary collections.”

Gallery owner Louis K. Meisel is credited with creating the term “photorealism” to describe the photography-inspired work that evolved from the pop art and minimalism movements. While the work looks life-like, many examples of the form exaggerate the color or the perspective of the image to create a heightened sense of reality.

In addition to works from the Louis K. Meisel Gallery, the exhibition was culled from the collections of Bernaducci Meisel Gallery, OK Harris Work of Art, Nancy Hoffman Gallery and Mike Weiss Gallery as well as from Eileen S. Kaminsky & the Eileen S. Kaminsky Family Foundation.

Another characteristic of photorealism is large scale paintings, and there are several works in the show ranging from six to 11 feet in size. That’s one of the reasons Zona decided to show the collection in Howland.

“It requires a lot of light,” he said. “Given the scale of the walls at the Trumbull Branch and (architect) Tom Schroth’s concept of blending natural light and artificial light, it’s the perfect venue for this show.”

And while the Butler owns many photorealist paintings its own, it won’t be displaying any of them alongside the traveling show for one simple reason.

“It’s such a large grouping of paintings, we may not be able to show everything that is being sent to us,” Zona said. “We won’t need to add works at all to this gathering.”