Modern art is generally known to have started with Realism, a movement in the late 1800s which turned away from traditional, Romantic or Classical forms of art and focused on representing an unembellished portrayal of contemporary life. These realist paintings often incorporated more dark, earthy tones and depicted situations and people as is, instead of idealizing and therefore beautifying them. Abend Gallery, in their special exhibition Edge of Realism, going on now through July 23,  explores art that exists at the margin of realist painting, resulting in a collection of works that tease the line between normal and ideal, unadulterated and fabricated. Knowing that realism rejects beauty for the sake of beauty, this exhibition presents a contradiction, and in doing so makes you feel like you’re witnessing something secret, maybe even naughty. With 65 pieces by 31 artists, this expertly curated show will bring you right to the edge of reality, only so far as to make sure your head is still in the clouds.

Although the entire exhibition is noteworthy, these 7 artists stand out to us. But go see for yourself and decide which are your favorites.

Drew Young

Abend Gallery, Edge of Realism, Drew Young

The Mongrels Den. Photo courtesy of Abend Instagram

Works Displayed:

Another Man’s Palace
The Mongrels Den

Young uses the dark tones of realism, in palette and emotion. Painting grim scenes that immediately unsettle you, his work doesn’t completely embrace the realist way because the grotesqueness of the situations almost seems too horrible to be real. Take a moment to look at each of his subjects independently, as each has their own intense complexity.

Valentin Fischer

Edge of Realism, Abend Gallery, Valentin Fischer

L in Ultramarine. Photo courtesy of Abend Instagram

Works Displayed:

L in Ultramarine
K in Turquois
V in Magenta

These are more immediately periphery of traditional realist values because of Fischer’s use of bright, almost neon colors while representing beautiful, unflawed women. Where each painting becomes real is in the facial expressions of the women, moments caught candidly—a sigh of regret or betrayal, longing for something or someone, feeling sorry for yourself. Instead of taking away from these emotions, the use of contrasting color schemes accentuates each feeling, adding layers to it that would not exist with earth tones.

Alex Beck

Abend Gallery, Edge of Realism, Alex Beck

Landmarks. Photo courtesy of Abend Gallery

Works Displayed:


In these two paintings, Beck fools the eye by presenting normal–looking subjects which have been augmented to be nonsensical upon closer inspection. In Landmarks, the house seems to be built by fragments of different houses, or perhaps that same plot of land during different times. In this surreal representation, it feels like a memory rather than a portrayal, pieces that are remembered on top of each other, each piece real at one point, but layered together they become a story. Beck’s paintings are perfect for the Edge of Realism because he’s not idealizing his subjects, but his depictions of them are definitely altered. If anything, portraying the memory of something may be more accurate to our reality than presenting it “as is.”

Che Smith

Abend Gallery, Che Smith, Edge of Realism

The Serenade. Photo courtesy of Abend Gallery

Works Displayed:

Deep Six
The Serenade

Slightly gothic in nature, these paintings appear as photographs, set in ornate black frames to aid in the appearance of being real pictures. But in actuality, there are heavy brushstrokes and even enough paint in certain places to produce texture. The subjects are also punk or gothic, with tattooed arms and heavy eye make–up. Smith’s ode to realism, aside from the likeness to a photograph, is her portrayal of a side of contemporary life that is usually passed up in other fine art.

Alpay Efe

Abend Gallery, Edge of Realism, Alpay Efe

Amalgamate A.a. Photo courtesy of Abend Instagram

Works Displayed:

Amalgamate A.a
Amalgamate A.b
Butterfly A.a
Note With Butterfly A.b

It is hard to express what exactly is so fascinating about the Amalgamate series. The woman is posed in odd positions, looking away from the viewer with different expressions, a blush to her cheeks and she is surrounded by abstract designs and dripping colors. They are sensual paintings, but not without some darker emotion mixed in. The two other paintings by Efe are both small squares with dainty butterflies on neutral backgrounds, they appear as real butterflies in shadowboxes. And in these depictions, we are reminded both of the beauty of life and the permanence of death.

Gage Opdenbrouw

Abend Gallery, Edge of Realism, Gage Opdenbrouw

Untitled. Photo courtesy of Abend Gallery

Works Displayed:

Twilight 2, Garland of Hours
Garden 3, 2 Women, Garland of Hours
Midnight at Midday in the Garden
Kiss Me Like A Stranger

Have you ever been captivated by a certain light? Like the way aspens filter sunbeams or the way everything has a tint of orange when the sunset is spectacular. Opdenbrouw captures the emotion with lighting, and though his four paintings in this exhibition all feature people, the feeling that emanates from each comes from expert use of color and technique to represent light in different ways. To further emphasize the atmosphere around the people rather than the people themselves, all faces are blurred and indistinct.

Zack Zdrale

Abend Gallery, Edge of Realism, Zack Zdrale

N.G. Photo courtesy of Abend Instagram

Works Displayed:

Dissociation II
N.G. 2

There is no tip–toeing around the fact that these paintings are disturbing. Not only is the head of all of his subjects completely blurred, in a violent and thrashing fashion, the postures are extremely emotional. In one the posture is an exhausted slump, in another the posture stretches the skin taught with rage or abandon, and the third seems to be in preparation of something serious. The tones are dark, all shadows and pale skin. If you believe good art should be unsettling, then you must see Zdrale’s pieces at this exhibition.

Edge of Realism special exhibition takes place at Abend Gallery, 2260 E. Colfax Ave now until July 23, Tuesday–Saturday 10 a.m.—6 p.m.

Inside the exhibition, looking at works by Rashelle Stetman. Photo by Abend Gallery

Inside the exhibition, looking at works by Rashelle Stetman. Photo by Abend Gallery