Cynical Realism originated in China during the late 1980s and early 1990s. The movement gained traction as a critical response to the fraught socio-political environment surrounding the Tiananmen Square Massacre. Cynical Realist artwork does not always share a consistent visual style but is marked by ironic and satirical humor and the parody of socialist realist imagery.
Photorealism combines graphic skill in painting and drawing with the realism of photography. Works of photorealism are meant to appear like photographs, or like hyper-realistic images of the real world. But at the same time, they are never meant to deceive viewers into thinking they are the “real thing.” There is always a key to remembering that a photorealistic painting is just a painting and a photorealistic drawing is just a drawing.
Sots art was a rebellion against the totalitarian approach to art in the Soviet Union. Joseph Stalin and his autocratic successors sponsored “socialist realism” in art, which idolized state leaders and idealized life in the USSR. Artists like Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid ridiculed this state-sponsored art form and critiqued the state. They borrowed from American Pop Art and adapted it to Soviet mass culture.
Conceptual art has been in the news recently. Maurizio Cattelan drew criticism when he duct taped a banana to a wall and sold it for an outrageous $120,000. To drive the point home, Cattelan titled the work Comedian.
Street art is difficult to pin down because its definition is always shifting. Street art started with graffiti and murals in cities. More broadly, it refers to art made in that bold, transgressive spirit. The label applies equally to large-scale graffiti pieces and the more private sketchbooks that graffiti artists used and traded amongst themselves called “black books.”