Ralph Goings painting
Ralph Goings

During the mid 1960's and early 1970's as America was experiencing military, political and social change, the art community under went a metamorphism seeking to challenge and displace the Modernism movement of Abstraction, with Realism. This change also reverberated through documentary film making and still photography.


"American Nitro" came out of this movement and can be loosely classified as Contemporary Realism. Other examples were the movie,"Derby" a documentary on the fringe sport of Roller Derby and the book "Suburbia", by Bill Owens whose black and white still photos chronicled the early 1970's suburban lifestyle of Americans.

Robert Bechtle painting
Robert Bechtle
"Alameda Chrysler", Painting
Glennray Tutor painting
Glennray Tutor
"Dream of Love", Painting

Contemporary Realism, and especially the West Coast version, had its roots in Mural Art. But Realism more generally has been called the American Art form. Benjamin West , Thomas Eakins, and the Ash Can School are it's fathers and it was in the 1970's that it re-emerged in America. It differs from Photo Realism in that Photo Realism uses subject matter that is frequently banal and without particular interest, where as Contemporary Realism is exaggerated, ironic, and conceptual.


Contemporary Realists advocate a simple style intent on portraying ordinary contemporary life with attention to individual and regional eccentricities. Artists use direct visual language of current iconography and symbols; a language easily understood by nearly everyone in the culture. Subjects are portrayed in as straightforward a manner as possible, without idealizing them. Also, the artists make liberal use of humor and frequently employ saturated colors and elements of Pop culture.

Richard Avedon photo
Richard Avedon
"Drifter", Photo
Peter Maier painting
Peter Maier
"P.A. Barney, Sturgis", Painting
John Salt painting
John Salt
"Untitled", Painting, Oil On Linen
Peter Maier painting
Peter Maier
"39", Painting
Edward Kienholz mixed media
Edward Kienholz
"Backseat '38 Dodge", Mixed Media