The New Realism

The digital age is undoubtedly changing our society in a multitude of ways. More poignantly, the line between fact and fiction is being blurred more than ever. Many artists are now addressing this cultural shift with unconventionally realistic work, pushing realism to an all new level. This very topic brings our attention to the Walker Art Center‘s current exhibition: Lifelike, on view now until May 27, 2012.  Not only do these works demonstrate technical mastery, they offer well thought-out conceptual statements that ask important questions about our modern society. They also demonstrate the value of art.

Below is one of the works on view, Kui Hua Zi (Sunflower Seeds) by Chinese dissident artist, Ai Weiwei. These sunflower seeds are not real but are made of porcelain using a traditional technique that typically requires 30 stages to complete. The artist chose sunflower seeds because to him they symbolize the Chinese people. Years ago during the famine under Mao, sunflower seeds were one of the few reliable sources of food, comfort and social interaction. Through this work, Weiwei’s sought to represent the relationship between the ruled and rulers. 

Ai WeiWei, Kui Hua Zi (Sunflower Seeds), 2009
New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York
Photo courtesy Carolina Nitsch

For this project, a total of one hundred million porcelain sunflower seeds were made. Each one was hand painted and it took 1600 people over 2.5 years to complete. Watch the video to see how they are made and learn more about this powerful, political work.

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