28 high school students from the IB visual art and elective arts classes were joined by Mrs. Hope, Mr. Jones and Mr. Mitchell on the HS art trip to the Musee d’ Ixelles this week to see the exhibition “PHOTOREALISM. 50 Years of Hyper-realistic Painting” as well as explore the permanent collection in this relatively small but excellent Brussels museum and gallery. The students spent the morning looking at the mostly American oil paintings in relation to 6 examples they were given of ‘realist’ painting from the last 600 years from Jan van Eyck to Michael Borremans with the aim of exploring to what extent the term ‘realist’ could be applied to the works in the exhibition compared to these other works from different social, historical and cultural contexts. After lunch the gallery discussions continued in front of the works students had selected for further comparative analysis and it was interesting to see how the teacher and parent perceptions differed from the students whose knowledge of photography is mostly digital whilst the adults actually remember the 60s and 70s before the digital revolution when the earliest photorealist painting were made in the period of post-war popular consumer-culture and the counter cultural movements that questioned the ‘American Dream’. Were these paintings celebrations of iconic Americana like the diner, art deco architecture, classic bikes and cars with their shiny reflective surfaces or was there a deeper and more ironic social critique at work in the obsessive and meticulous attention to detail in the bland and the banal surface reality of everyday life?
The aim of this trip and others is to encourage students to discover and access the rich artistic and cultural resources from around the world which they can encounter in Brussels, and to assist them to develop an understanding of Art through direct investigation of primary sources. By engaging them in a critical dialogue about artistic expression in different historical and contemporary contexts, relevant to their own developing research and studio practice, it is hoped they will be encouraged to develop their own independent trips in future.
By Alan Mitchell, HS Art Teacher
Following the success of the 2014 exhibition dedicated to the American hyperrealist sculptor Duane Hanson, the Museum of Ixelles presents PHOTOREALISM. 50 Years of Hyperrealistic Painting. This exhibition highlights the generation of hyperrealist painters after the Second World War. In the aftermath of Pop Art, the hyperrealists portrayed and criticized the American consumer society in a fascinating semi-photographic style. ( Musee d’Ixelles )