Blake Gopnik looks back over the last 10 years of his criticism to find some trends in what he likes in the Washington Post. Interestingly, there’s no painting. But he names several video, installation or performance and photography based artists in his discussion of the powers of realism:
If the good work follows the past decade’s trend, a lot of it will have close ties to reality. The real has always been important territory for artists. The difference now is that while most of the more arty, “imaginative” options are looking tired, the “new realism,” if we dare call it that, seems to be gaining ground. It’s as likely to tweak and distort the world as to record it faithfully. It digs more deeply than ever before into what reality, and its documentation, can mean to us.
Some of the very best of today’s art looks real but documents a fabricated world where something is not right.[…] Another promising direction for contemporary realism: Avoid fiction entirely, but present a real-life situation that’s almost too strange to believe. […] Some contemporary artists are simply looking long and steady at the world around them, then reporting back on it to all the rest of us. Realism has never been conceived quite as straightforwardly as now, with a minimum of distracting, self-conscious artiness. Video and photography can try on — or at least fake — a style-free directness that handmade painting has never been able to claim.[…] For very nearly a century, jokester dada and sober realism have mostly been thought of as occupying opposite ends of the artistic spectrum. That circle seems about to close.
The dada spirit is especially alive in certain cutting-edge “realists” who think even the most straightforward snapshot is still too much like fine art for its own good. They want to make real things happen in the real world, with no recording step involved and no object left over to show or sell. (The French philosopher Nicolas Bourriaud has dubbed what they’re up to “relational aesthetics,” a tag that some of them dislike — but what artists ever like the tags they get?)
Reality Show (Washington Post)