LOUIS K. MEISEL
BY GENE SZUCS
MARCH | 2022
When history looks back on the fine art retail renaissance that took over SoHo and much of New York City in the 60’s and 70’s, with names like Warhol, Pollack, Rothko, and deKooning, one name will stand out – Louis K Meisel. Meisel is synonymous with SoHo fine art royalty that single handedly built the multi billion dollar international trade empire that constitutes fine art.
Talent. . .skill. . .a decisive eye. . .Those skills can get an artist only so far in the world of being a professional artist. The man in the middle is the gateway to building an empire around one name, and then starting a movement.
Part savant, part entrepreneurial visionary, Louis is responsible for single handedly coining an art movement that grew out of the late 60’s POP scene in NYC, where artists would use a camera as a compositional tool for time consuming creative masterpieces – it was called ‘PhotoRealism’.
According to Lou, photorealism is about beauty, it’s about quality, about craftsmanship, and it's about skill. In his opinion there are only about 50 artists that fit the criteria to call themselves part of the Photorealism movement. It all started in the early 1960’s, when Malcolm Moreley, an English painter, began replicating pictures of ocean liners on postcards. He would take existing pieces, and transpose them to modern works of photo realistic art on the canvas, which put him at the forefront of the movement.
Through the decades, artists took this technique and elevated it with the use of film cameras. From 35mm film cameras, loaded with Ektachrome or Kodachrome film, to modern day medium format digital cameras, images would be captured with the highest level of detail, and then mirrored using intricate paint strokes to create multidimensional masterpieces that grace the walls and vaults of the most distinguished art collections in the world.
Meisel, who has published four books dedicated to the art form, maintains that photo realism is more about creating an ‘illusion’, and an ‘impression’ of copying a photograph. But the work is so much more. It’s about viewing distance – the further away you get from a work, the more photographic it gets. But with the details lying so close to the surface, the closer one gets to the work, the more you see. . . the precision strokes, color on top of color, and the time that goes into breathing life into the canvas is entombed in the work.
One must only look at one of Tom Blackwell’s celebrated paintings of motorcycles to see that photorealism is ‘chrome’ NOT being chrome paint. . . but countless grays, whites, and blacks, all working together to create minute detailed reflections in the painting. What looks very precise when viewed at normal viewing distance, looks brushy, abstract, and creates a different response from the viewer, when gazed upon up close.
“The thing about photorealism. . . about some artists, they are very sharp. . . very tight. But, other artists like Tom Blackwell, Yigal Ozari, and Chuck Close. . .They have the ability to touch colors with colors, to imitate life with intimate detail of a photograph. The viewing distance is key for the illusion.” But being the self proclaimed ‘king maker’ of photorealism does not come without great pressure. From representing seasoned modern day legends like Close, Blackwell, and Larry Rivers, to modern day masters like Ben Schonzeit, Yigal Ozari, and Bertram Meniel, the art market is constantly shifting, trends building upon each other to produce the next great movement, the great artist. But one thing to be certain of, is that Meisel is far from stepping away from the gambling table of the art world.