Courbet, Hopper, Gursky …

Realism: The Adventure of Reality

11 June – 5 September 2010

Perception of the Reality

When Gustave Courbet gave the eponymous title »Réalisme« to his protest exhibition against the official Salon in 1853, he introduced a completely new perspective to the art world that still allows for a diversity of artistic expression today. Since then, the question of reality – and the perception of reality – has become the most important topic in modern art, even though strategies for portraying the external aspect of the world and objects therein with the utmost accuracy had already developed throughout the history of art. Artists have always made advances in transforming these aspects into works of art as though they were actually real. But it was not until the modern era that the futility of these attempts and doubts regarding the possibility of depicting reality became actual topics in the art world. Objectivity becomes a paradox. In the same way, although this realisation gives rise to uncertainty, it is also liberating in the way our inability to comprehend and capture the world as art proves exhilarating.

Realistic Motives

In this extensive retrospective exhibition covering the complex and fascinating phenomenon of realism, the connecting element of the selected works was the highly credible, objective imagination of the visible world, right down to the last detail. To a high degree, perspective and shade, anatomy and space, surface and atmosphere all corresponded to the perception of reality. Approximately fifteen to twenty artistic positions were displayed in eight chapters each under the following headings: Still Life:the World of Objects; Interior: the Aura and Magic of Space; The City: Living Space and Stage; Landscape: Space and Time; Modern History Painting: Construction or Testimony; Genre Painting: Document or Production?; Portraiture: Limits of the Visible World;The Nude: Naturalness or Pose. Each work reveals its particular features at its best in a dialogue, without being reduced to a mere document of cultural history. The observer is thus motivated to pursue the depiction of reality and the role of art in the construction of reality across historical borders.

From the 19th century to the present

The exhibition »Realism – The Adventure of Reality« spans a wide range from realism in the nineteenth century, to the New Objectivity, Pop Art and photorealism in the 1960s, through to contemporary art. The over 180 artworks focus on the precise contemplation of reality in all its manifestations. In contrast, the picturesque and expressive tendencies in Realism were consciously omitted. Artworks from all media, painting, photography, sculpture, video art and prints and drawings from more than 120 international artists are juxtaposed. Among the artists are wellknown names like Gustave Courbet, Edward Hopper, Christian Schad or Duane Hanson, along with a number of internationally renowned contemporary artists from Gerhard Richter through to Andreas Gursky – but also up-and-coming talents awaiting discovery.

The exhibition by Nils Ohlsen and Christiane Lange was developed in cooperation with Kunsthalle Emden and the Kunsthalle of the Hypo Cultural Foundation in Munich. The exhibition opened in Emden on 23 January and runs until 24 May 2010. Following its presentation in Munich, »Realism – The Adventure of Reality« moves to the Kunsthal Rotterdam where it will be shown in a slightly modified version.

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