The National Portrait Gallery, a historic art museum that was founded as part of the Smithsonian Institution, offers the country’s most expansive collection of portraits and has a handful of highly anticipated exhibitions scheduled to launch soon. One of these upcoming exhibits is titled “Portraiture Now: Staging the Self,” and is representative of the museum’s renewed commitment to featuring portraiture of all kinds. Originally founded as an institution devoted to collecting and displaying the images of famous Americans, the National Portrait Gallery now embraces diverse bodies of work from artists that span different artistic movements around the world.
“Portraiture Now: Staging the Self” is an exhibit that focuses on Latino artists, and is a collaboration between the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian Latino Center. Featuring the work of David Antonio Cruz, Carlee Fernandez, María Martínez-Cañas, Rachelle Mozman, Karen Miranda Rivadaneira, and Michael Vasquez, all artists of Latino background, “Staging the Self” examines the ways in which one’s identity is constructed and influenced through portraiture. Explains the museum, “Seeking to relieve portraiture of its charge to memorialize individuals and convey essential aspects of their identities, they use it instead to explore the ambiguities and changes in individual character,” of the approach that each artist uses.
The museum also mentions, “As they present themselves in a staged manner, portraiture loses its aura of certainty, and becomes an evolving map for finding oneself in others.” This perspective is significant because of the National Portrait Gallery’s origins as a kind of artistic catalogue of famous American people, immortalized through portraiture. “Staging the Self” contrasts with the museum’s earliest vision, and demonstrates the institution’s newfound commitment to modern artists, and representing cultural diversity.
“Staging the Self” is a theatrical, inquisitive form of storytelling that allows the experiences and perspectives of its Latino artists to explore portraiture in a new way. Featuring paintings, drawings, and photography from the acclaimed group of artists, this exhibition is one that inspires self-reflection and speaks to the continually evolving focus of the National Portrait Gallery.
Portraiture Now: Staging the Self
August 22 – April 12, 2015
National Portrait Gallery
Image: via Michael Vasquez