A New Exhibit Brings You Back to the '70s

An exhibit that celebrates the ’70s

Yes, yes, the ’60s … Free love. British invasion. Groovy. Whatevah. For some Boomers the ’70s were just as far out. We had bell bottoms. We had “The Exorcist.” And we had our own genre of art. 

The Currier Museum’s current exhibit, “Still Life: 1970s Photorealism,” on display through May 3, doesn’t just celebrate this American art form, but also the decade in which it was conceived.

Photorealism is the use of one art form — photography — to inspire and inform other art forms, mainly painting, drawing and sculpture.

In the 1970s a cluster of American artists, including Duane Hanson, Tom Blackwell, Chuck Close and Audrey Flack, most of whom are represented in this show, rebelled against  abstraction, minimalism and even the cultural discourse of pop art by using painting, sculpture and drawing to faithfully reproduce photographs.

This small exhibit has stellar samples of photorealism, including three outstanding sculptures: “Man in a Chair with a Beer,” 1973, by Duane Hanson; “Drug Addict,” 1974, by Duane Johnson and John DeAndrea’s “Lissa [sic] Pregnant,” 1973.

These works, as with all the works in this show, aren’t just dramatic because of their ability to faithfully recreate a photograph — or in the case of the sculpture, actual, full-scaled humans with literal warts and all — but also in the choice of subject. “Lissa Pregnant” does not show a glowing mother to be (the subject was the artist’s wife) but rather a real woman, worried, unsure and uncomfortable.

As amazing as the detail in these works are, they can never be the photographs or the people that originally inspired them. They are filtered through the artists’ sensibilities as well as the reality of the time in which they were created — in this case, the ’70s.

It’s no coincidence that this was the decade that for the first time people watched actual images of war on their televisions every single day.

The exhibit includes an interactive station where guests are invited to jot down their memories of the 1970s on fluorescent pieces of paper, hung on a line, or if they’re not old enough, what they think the 1970s were.

“Good bands on the Boston Common. Not understanding although aware of impact of Vietnam. Joining the service to serve my country,” wrote one visitor.

“I loved my ’74 Nova,” wrote another.

And yes, Richard Estes, probably the most famous photorealist, is represented, but not in the same show. “Painterly to Precise: Richard Estes at the Currier,” is on view through June 15, 2015, at an adjoining gallery. It’s a small exhibit that features the museum’s two new Estes acquisitions. Seeing the two shows together definitely makes for a gestalt ’70s trip.