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Photorealist Painting: A Modern History of Surfaces

Joshua Shannon, associate professor and director of graduate studies, art history and archaeology, and director, The Potomac Center for the Study of Modernity, University of Maryland. In this lecture recorded on February 11, 2018, at the National Gallery of Art, Joshua Shannon aims to recover the revealing strangeness of photorealist painting, a movement largely ignored since its heyday around 1970. Drawn from one chapter of Shannon’s book The Recording Machine: Art and the Culture of Fact, the presentation focuses on works by the California painter Robert Bechtle. Shannon uses Bechtle’s paintings to teach us about the role of photography in shaping everyday experience after World War II, lingering on photorealism’s account of modern surfaces and interest in the odd pyschosocial phenomenon of posing. Shannon concludes by proposing a new understanding of the apparent antihumanism of American art in the 1960s and 1970s.