John De Andrea, American (1941- )

John De Andrea

John De Andrea was born in Denver, Colorado on November 24, 1941 and is an American sculptor, who is known for realistic sculptures of human figures; dressed and nude in true-to-life postures.

He is associated with the photorealist, Hyperrealism, Verist and superrealist schools of art. De Andrea is known for extremely realistic polyvinyl or polychromed bronze casts of the human figure.

De Andrea received his Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Colorado at Boulder and studied at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque on an art scholarship, 1966–8. He lives in Denver.

He is an artistic representative of Hyperrealism and the Hyperrealism school of art,and specialized in nudes, frequently lovers, which he builds from plastic, polyester, glass fiber with natural hair and painting after naturalistic gypsum castings. The subjects were people from his close environment, as a rule, friends and studio models. In casting their bodies and casting the mold in different materials, showing all the forms and surfaces most accurately, the artist pursued the intention to record the authenticity and uniqueness of the individuals.

John de Andrea's work is often seen in connection with the work of Duane Hanson (1925-1996) and George Segal (1924-2000). In documenta 5 in Kassel 1972, his work was represented with life-size pencil drawings of a nude young man and a nude young woman as well as a sculpture from polyester resin, manufactured after body castings, which represented a pair in the act of love-making. Examples of his work are to be found in the Museum Ludwig in Aachen and Cologne, Germany.

Realistic art

Most of his works document young women. Groups (for instance an older woman and a younger girl, both lightly clad) are rare, although some pieces of amorous couples are well known (example: naked woman and dressed man in Aachen) and in a few pieces he did an artist and model at work in which the artist is always dressed, and the model always naked.

Realistic art is of course judged in relation to the realism, which of course, can never reach reality; therefore to a certain extent this program already carries the risk of failure right from the start. Regarding John de Andrea's work, the figures often resemble dolls and people do not regard realistic works automatically as art, even if the technical skill of the artist is admired as such.

Amorous couples

De Andrea's exhibition of lovers at the Documenta 5, excited substantial attention. The meaning of this work actually is not to be found in the provocation or in the unveiled representation of sexuality, but in the obvious and equally outspoken human problems of the couple. The work induces feelings of misfortune, misery and pity.

This alienation between the lovers and their incurable misfortune becomes even clearer with the work shown in Aachen. The man is not only fully dressed and the woman naked, but she clings to him, while he touches her only minimally, in order to not induce an open rejection.

Sculptor and model

In contrast his works based on the sculptor and his model are characterized by a sober, professional relationship between the man and the woman; the artist concentrates on his work or rather is shown in situations, where he withdraws within himself to a meditative posture, and retreats upon himself, in order to collect his energy and concentration for further work.

Looking closely, it can clearly be seen that the artist wants to bring the true core of the individuals portrayed to the surface. In the sculpture exhibited in the Museum Ludwig in Cologne in the 80s; in contrast to his other models; the model is black and has an unusual body insofar as her breasts are quite large.

Comparison with Greek sculpture and contemporary sculptors

While Greek sculpture, with which his work is often compared, presents ideal-typical figures, De Andrea always shows individuals, unique, contemporary persons, the presence of these persons each being very different, however. The less present the individual persona, the more the impression of a doll.

In comparison with other realistic contemporary sculptors, John de Andrea doesn't depict any socially critical ideas. While Duane Hanson represented predominantly ugly, almost shapeless persons and thus criticism of the American society is not only intended, but cannot be overlooked, and while George Segal produces feelings of alienation due to his technology and showed the separation and isolation of humans in their everyday life, Andrea's convincing topic and eminent contribution is contemplation on the work of the sculptor; human problems of lovers interacting and the presentation of the basic core of individuals, albeit the degree of success in this last endeavor being very uneven.

Mental conflicts

The tableaux of an older woman and a girl mentioned above represents an exception; the girl obviously suffers from an enormous mental shock; to a certain extent a history is being told, which must remain unknown for the viewer. The topic therefore probably is the emotional support of the older woman, who calms down the child by her proximity and by holding her fast and for a long time allowing the child to overcome it's pain. In works like these the emotional complexity of the sculptor proves itself.


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