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  1. No, it's not about portraying reality.

    The word “realism” is generally used in two senses.

    The first is the historical current in France in the second half of the XIX century. The first canonical realist was Gustave Courbet, the author of the famous picture about the origin of the world, as if hinting that realism is fucked up. The second is what might more properly be called naturalism: an attempt, scattered through history, to portray everything exactly as it is, as if someone knows exactly how it is.

    So, photorealism and hyperrealism-not just do not pursue realistic ideals, but on the contrary — subject them to some doubt.

    Photorealism emerged in the 60s under the influence of two independent pressures: the mass distribution of cheap “instant” cameras, and the reaction of artists to pop art.

    The first polaroids were incredibly popular, and over the course of several years of their existence, they inadvertently formed a recognizable type of “throwaway images” – random, unsuccessful, meaningless and completely non-artistic images that can now be found on the ruins of junk dealers. It is from them that the aesthetics of photorealism emerged — from the practice of capturing completely unimportant, everyday, devoid of any hierarchy of compositions. These are more attempts at photography than photography.

    Thus, photorealism was not concerned with the study of reality as such, but with the study of images of reality. This gave a double mediation, pushing the real object of the image out of the context. It didn't matter that such-and-such a Buick had once been parked on the corner of Main St. and Lexington-all that matters is that its shadow falls to the left.

    Pop art was also engaged in image research – but pop art created its own iconography, parodied mass culture at the level of method, mixed media discourse with religious discourse, and its images were completely hierarchical. So photorealism competed with pop art not to bring painting back to reality, but only to offer a different way of working with images – also massive, also mediated, but devoid of the central, connecting, obviously the most important thing.

    Interestingly, William Eggleston and other early art photographers who worked in color borrowed their aesthetics from photorealists who had done the same thing ten years earlier on canvas. In other words, artists who were inspired by photography as a way to detach themselves from reality gave photographers a new way to start working with it. But this is a separate topic.

    Photorealism couldn't beat pop art. Warhol's studies were all too well attuned to the coming reign of mass excess, resulting in an event that clearly illustrates how the resistance of two ideas looks on a visual level: pop art, figuratively speaking, penetrated photorealism.

    Hyperrealism is the epitome of pop art that grew out of photorealism techniques. Its photographic quality is more of a path than a meaning. Meaning is a kind of belittled pop art, devoid of the sarcastic fabricativeness that so betrayed Warhol's deception. Under the pop art, after all, there were images of the Renaissance heritage distorted by history. Hyperrealism, as an illegitimate child in many ways, takes another step back. If photorealism and pop art explored images, then hyperrealism already lives in the realm of image representation.

    This is Baudrillard's theme, yes – “the simulation of something which never really existed.” That is why it focuses so much on mirrors, lenses, reflecting and refractive surfaces: you can not talk about any reality here. It's not buildings, it's not cars, it's not even a trick of the light. This is a substitution followed by nothing but another substitution, followed by nothing but another substitution. It never comes to the original source, because the original source does not exist.

    Of course, hyperrealism, as it always happens, primarily reflects the time in which it appeared. Photography by that time was already a hundred years old, no one prevented you from starting to write on it earlier, but for a real direction in art, it is not enough to create suitable conditions — they need an appropriate worldview, their own set of problems and questions. So hyperrealism simply retells the view of the world as a mirror corridor — and this, in turn, is synonymous with what was happening at that time in philosophy, cinema and literature.

    The view of hyperrealism is rather pessimistic, but its emphasis on the external, catchy — betrays its deliberate superficiality. It is no accident that later hyperrealistic practitioners often turned to the depiction of political violence in despotic regimes: while something like Goya's “May Third” has its own heroic background, hyperrealism portrays the same thing as a naked atrocity without ideology, and at the same time as a representation without access to empiricism – something happening far away, and familiar to the viewer only in the form of images.

    And one last thing. If hyperrealism is based on a rather cold technicality, then photorealism was primarily sentimental as hell. Drawing analogies with paintings of past centuries, photorealism is closer to Vermeer, and hyperrealism is closer to illusionist artists of different centuries, who for some reason really wanted real birds to fly to their painted grapes.

    In principle, this is the main difference between them: photorealism is images that try to get closer to the world, while hyperrealism tries to move away from it.

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