Chrome Dreams and Infinite Reflections: American Photorealism

Mary and Charlie Babcock Wing Gallery

Beginning in the 1960s, a small group of artists began examining their world through photographs and then creating paintings and prints that mimic those photographs with extraordinary precision. Chrome Dreams highlights the nostalgia associated with America’s post-war boom. For the exhibition, Reynolda has assembled forty-one works of art that include glittering cityscapes, shiny storefront windows, and sleek automobiles that are icons of the period.

Artists have used the camera in the production of paintings since its invention in the mid-nineteenth century, but the Photorealists revolutionized the relationship between photography and painting. Photorealists based their paintings on photographs, sometimes taken by the artist, at other times mined from print sources. Employing virtuosic painting technique and sometimes tools such as projectors and airbrushes, Photorealist artists meticulously recreate the photographs in paint, often on a large scale.

Photorealist paintings, however, are not simple demonstrations of skill or straightforward representations of the physical world. Instead, they often offer wry or pointed commentary on consumer culture, urban architecture, and the visual onslaught of modern life. By focusing their attention on commonplace objects such as cheap costume jewelry, store awnings, or automobiles, Photorealist artists elevate these items so that the viewer questions their suitability as subjects for fine art. The paintings thus raise thought-provoking questions about the nature of art itself.


Robert Cottingham, Robert Bechtle, Richard Estes, Jack Mendenhall, Richard McLean, Ralph Goings, Ron Kleeman, Audrey Flack, Don Eddy, Janet Fish, Chuck Close, Ben Schonzeit

Sample Artworks
Richard Estes, D Train (1988), screenprint in colors on museum board, private collection, copyright Richard Estes, Courtesy Menconi + Schoelkopf.
Ron Kleemann, The Four Horsemen and the Soho Saint (1976), screen print, courtesy Wake Forest University Student Union Collection of Contemporary Art.
Ralph Goings, Alpha, 1973. Watercolor and casein on paper, 9 x 12 in. Weatherspoon Art Museum, UNC Greensboro. Museum purchase with funds from the Dillard Paper Company for the Dillard Collection, 1976.2374. © Ralph Goings. Photo courtesy of the Weatherspoon Art Museum, UNC Greensboro
Robert Cottingham (1935– ) Buffalo Optical, 1982 Oil on canvas Collection of the Art Fund, Inc. at the Birmingham Museum of Art, AFI.1.1983 © Robert Cottingham. Photo credit: Sean Pathasema
Audrey Flack (1931– ) Bounty, 1978 Oil and acrylic on canvas Reynolda House Museum of American Art, Gift of Betsy Main Babcock © Audrey Flack / Louis K. Meisel Gallery
Richard Estes, Big Diamonds (1979), screenprint. Private collection. Copyright Richard Estes, Courtesy Courtesy Schoelkopf Gallery.
Robert Bechtle (1932–2020) Kona Kai, 1967 Oil on canvas Image Courtesy of the Gibbes Museum of Art/Carolina Art Association. © Robert Bechtle and Whitney Chadwick Trust Courtesy of the Robert Bechtle and Whitney Chadwick Trust and Gladstone Gallery

Exhibition-Related Events

  • August 19: Cinema Under the Stars: Crooklyn
  • August 25: Reynolda On the House
  • September 2: Cinema Under the Stars: The Apartment
  • September 16: Cinema Under the Stars: La La Land
  • September 27: Precision and Soul: A Conversation about Photorealism with Valerie Hillings
  • October 15: Reynolda On the House
  • November 3: Reflections with the Curator
  • November 15: Reynolda On the House

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