George Washington by Gilbert Stuart, oil on canvas, 1796; acquired as a gift to the nation through the generosity of the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation
The National Portrait Gallery is exhibiting Black Out: Silhouettes Then and Now, thru March 24, 2019.The exhibition “explores the art form of cut-paper profiles in terms of their rich historical roots and powerful contemporary presence.” The exhibition, which primarily features works on paper, also brings together sculptures, prints, media art and mixed-media installations. Ranging in scale from 3 inches to nearly 40 feet, the exhibition features art from 1796 to today, including some 50 unique objects, organized into four large, gallery-sized installations.
Artwork by leading contemporary women artists takes the silhouette form to new heights. The exhibition was curated by Asma Naeem, the Portrait Gallery’s curator of prints.He commented that “With both historical and contemporary explorations into the form of silhouette, the exhibition reveals new pathways between past and present, particularly with regard to how we can reassess notions of race, power, individualism and, even, the digital self.”
Image below:Thomas Sully by Auguste Edouart - Ink, chalk & cut paper on paper.
The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery is exhibiting a portrait made posthumously in 2017 of Henrietta Lacks by Kadir Nelson, thru November 4. The portrait was jointly acquired by the Gallery and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) as a gift from Nelson and the JKBN Group LLC, and is shared by the two museums. Henrietta Lacks (1920-1951), “whose great-great-grandmother was an enslaved person, lost her life to cervical cancer at age 31. During her treatment, doctors took cells from her body - without permission - and discovered they lived long lives and reproduced indefinitely in test tubes. These "immortal" HeLa cells have since contributed to over 10,000 medical patents, aiding research and benefiting patients with polio, AIDS, Parkinson’s disease and other conditions.” Kim Sajet, director of the National Portrait Gallery, has commented that “Lacks’s story presents moral and philosophical questions around issues of consent, racial inequalities, the role of women, medical research and privacy laws, providing rich platforms for historical understanding and public dialogue.” NMAAHC Director Lonnie Bunch has commented that “The National Museum of African American History and Culture has always felt that the story of Henrietta Lacks is a significant and important moment that deserved greater recognition.”
Image below: “Henrietta Lacks (HeLa): The Mother of Modern Medicine” by Kadir Nelson, oil on linen, 2017. Note that the wallpaper pictured behind her features the “Flower of Life,” a symbol of immortality; the flowers on her dress recall images of cell structures; and two missing buttons allude to the cells taken from her body without permission.
The National Portrait Gallery is exhibiting Daguerreotypes: Five Decades of Collecting, thru June 2, 2019.The 2018 installation of the Daguerreian Gallery celebrates the National Portrait Gallery’s golden anniversary by highlighting fifty years of daguerreotype collecting by the museum. The exhibition includes portraits of such iconic figures as activist and reformer Dorothea Dix, entrepreneur and showman P. T. Barnum with Tom Thumb, Seneca Chief Governor Blacksnake, U.S. Navy Commodore Matthew C. Perry, and artist Alfred Waud. The exhibition is curated by Portrait Gallery Senior Curator of Photographs, Ann Shumard.
Image below: P.T. Barnum and General Tom Thumb / Attribution: Samuel Root (1819 - 1889) / Attribution: Marcus Aurelius Root (1808 - 1888) / c. 1850, Half-plate daguerreotype
The National Portrait Gallery is exhibiting One Year: 1968, An American Odyssey, thru May 19, 2019. It was a pivotal year when many stunning national and world events took place. It was also the year that the National Portrait Gallery opened. Some thirty portraits mark the year when the Vietnam War reached a turning point, the Civil Rights Act was signed into law, and television sets displayed everything from the Olympic Games to the first manned orbit of the moon. The exhibition features representations of Martin Luther King Jr., Robert F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Richard M. Nixon, along with portraits of cultural figures such as Peggy Fleming, Arthur Ashe, Aretha Franklin, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. Other significant personalities pictured include the Apollo 8 astronauts. The exhibition is curated by Portrait Gallery Historian James Barber.
Image below: Lyndon B. Johnson by Guy Rowe, Acrylic on plaster - Credit National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Time magazine
The National Portrait Gallery is exhibiting UnSeen: Our Past in a New Light, Ken Gonzales-Day and Titus Kaphar, thru January 6, 2019. The two leading contemporary artists focus on the under-representation and mis-representation of certain minorities in portraiture and American history. The artists illuminate the contributions and sacrifices people of color made during the country’s founding. The Portrait Gallery curators for the exhibition are Curator of Painting and Sculpture and Latino Art and History,Taína Caragol, and Curator of Prints, Drawings and Media Arts Asma Naeem.
Images below: 13 Plasters (Row 3) by Ken Gonzales-Day / 2014 (printed 2017), Chromogenic print / Courtesy of the artist and Luis De Jesus, Los Angeles
The National Portrait Gallery is exhibiting The Sweat of Their Face: Portraying American Workersthru September 3, 2018.The exhibition “combines art and social history with representations of American laborers across genres and centuries of art. Artists such as Winslow Homer, Dorothea Lange, Elizabeth Catlett, and Lewis Hine depicted laborers throughout the changing landscape of America; from child and slave laborers to miners, railway and steel workers, to the modern gradual disappearance of the worker. Approximately 70 objects in all media (including video) highlight a point of connection between the artists and their predominately anonymous subjects.” The exhibition is curated by Senior Historian and Director of Scholarly Programs David C. Ward and Associate Curator of Painting and Sculpture Dorothy Moss.
The National Portrait Gallery is exhibiting Recent Acquisitions, thru November 4, 2018. The annual exhibition features 27 objects that tell the story of America through the art of portraiture and showcase some of the newest additions to the museum’s collection. The portraits featured include those of Francis Scott Key, Madeleine Albright, Gertrude Jeannette, Dr. Norman Francis, Harry Callahan, Rita Moreno and Dustin Lance Black.
The Portrait Gallery is exhibiting Portraits of the World: Switzerland, which will be the first exhibition of a series that will highlight the global context of American portraiture, thru November 12, 2018. Each year, the Gallery will showcase a portrait created by an international artist affiliated with the lending country. The first featured work is Femme en Extase, a portrait of the Italian dancer Giulia Leonardi by the great Swiss painter Ferdinand Hodler. The portrait is on loan from the Museum of Art and History in Geneva. The painting “embodies the Swiss modernist approach to expressing emotion through movements of the body—a theory known as eurhythmics—which had an international impact and transformed dance in America. The Swiss painting is complemented by works from the Portrait Gallery’s collection representing American dancers influenced by this theory of eurhythmics.”