Realism is back. Realistic, or representational, art fell out of favor with the advent of photography, but today's painters and sculptors are reviving old techniques and giving reality a whole new spin.
"Factories" by Magic Realist Painter Arnau Alemany (Cropped). Photo by DEA / G. DAGLI ORTI via Getty Images
Somewhere between Surrealism and Photorealism lies the mystical landscape of Magic Realism, or Magical Realism. In literature and in the visual arts, Magic Realists draw upon the techniques of Traditional Realism to depict quiet, everyday scenes. Yet beneath the ordinary, there's always something mysterious and extraordinary.
Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009) might be called a Magic Realist because he used light, shadow, and desolate settings to suggest wonder and lyrical beauty. Wyeth's famous Christina's World (1948) shows what seems to be a young woman reclined in a vast field. We see only the back of her head as she gazes at a distant house. There's something unnatural about the woman's pose and the asymmetrical composition. Perspective is oddly distorted. "Christina's World" is real and unreal, simultaneously.
Contemporary Magic Realists move beyond the mysterious into the fabulist. Their works can be considered Surrealist, but the surreal elements are subtle and might not be immediately apparent. For example, artist Arnau Alemany (1948- ) merged two ordinary scenes in "Factories." At first, the painting appears to be a mundane illustration of tall buildings and smokestacks. However, instead of a city street, Alemany painted a lush forest. Both the buildings and the forest are familiar and credible. Placed together, they become strange and magical.
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