|Citarella Fish Company by Richard Estes|
It's no secret that Sydney and Walda Besthoff are big time art lovers, but the size of their photorealist painting collection, which takes up the entire back half of NOMA's first floor galleries, may come as a surprise. It is clearly one of America's best, and if anyone wants to see what virtuoso, bravura painting looks like, this is the place. While not fully understood, photorealism is important because of what it reveals about how people have come to see the world around us. Painting as we know it was defined during the renaissance by the depth perspective revealed by early optical devices. Sometimes the lens was just a pin hole in a dark enclosure, but the perspective it revealed has shaped our worldview ever since. Without even trying, people learned to see optical perspective over the centuries by looking at images. The invention of photography in the 19th century mechanized that process. Photographs came across as truth, but when photorealism appeared in the 1960s, the human hand reemerged as an arbiter of reality.
|Sunset Street, 1974 by Robert Bechtle|
Photorealism: The Sydney and Walda Besthoff Collection, Through January 25, New Orleans Museum of Art, City Park, 658-4100.