Last Friday I appeared on a panel at the Portrait Society of America's annual conference. The topic was "Realist Revolution and Critical Relevance: Is Main Stream Media Missing an Important Cultural Trend?" My co-panelists were the painters Jacob Collins and Alexey Steele, and the museum director Vern Swanson. The panel was moderated by the painter Jeremy Lipking. The quick answer to the panel's title question is certainly, yes. But has a lack of attention hurt this movement in reviving academic training and classical concerns? Not necessarily. Rather, the loss has gone the other way: The media's ignorance and silence has only ensured that the establishment art world and mainsteam culture miss out on a vital artistic movement.
We at The New Criterion have been laboring to right this wrong for several years through coverage of realism's more important artists. At the panel I revisited the forces that have kept realism from greater public attention: an aesthetic political correctness that has associated realism, at various times, with both fascism and communism, and the emergence of Pop and its market champions that have elevated bad technique over good.
Last December I discussed the market phenomena of Pop in these pages. As a service to our readers, I also want to draw together the various articles and reviews on realism that have recently appeared here.
My initial coverage began with Jacob Collins and the launch of a new classical school, in an article called "The New Old School." My colleague Roger Kimball also wrote on the subject for the Wall Street Journal and here on the Harlem Studio.
Other articles and reviews have concerned the painter Edward Minoff, realism and landscape, the Hudson River School for Landscape, Rear-gardism, the sculptor Sabin Howard. You can also read my interview with Jacob Collins and listen to the subject on NPR's All Things Considered.
The panel was videotaped, so hopefully the complete discussion will be available for online streaming soon. Alexey Steele's experience in the politically directed art world of Soviet Russia was particularly engaging. Stay tuned.