“Approaches to Realism”

Goldsmiths Gallery

What could be more abstract than realism? Imagine an Arcimboldo figure called “Reality”; of what would it be composed? A chimera of metonyms, magnetized about an absence, or as Nietzsche said of truth, “a mobile army of metaphors, anthropomorphisms . . . human relations . . . ” composing an illusion of presence.

In “3 American Painters,” Michael Fried spoke of “the gradual withdrawal of reality from the power of painting to represent it.” In his introduction to this show, John Roberts shows awareness of the slippery state of “realism” by prefacing his comments on the paintings by a history of the vicissitudes of the term since the 19th century, concluding that “it is the tension between the Brecht-Benjamin argument for [realism as] ideological combativeness in art and the Trotsky-Adorno insistence on the necessity of art’s formal self-definition that lies at the heart of this exhibition.”

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