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Thomas Eakins, Walt Whitman

Thomas Eakins, Walt Whitman (1891), platinum print [Tacoma Art Museum, Tacoma WA, Mar 17-Jun 10] National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, NPG

HIDE/SEEK: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture

Tacoma Art Museum
Tacoma WA – Mar 17-Jun 10, 2012

Andy Warhol, Camouflage Self-Portrait

Andy Warhol, Camouflage Self-Portrait (1986), synthetic polymer paint and silkscreen on canvas [Tacoma Art Museum, Tacoma WA, Mar 17-Jun 10] © 2011 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Collection: Philadelphia Museum of Art

Cass Bird, I Look Just Like My Daddy

Cass Bird, I Look Just Like My Daddy (2003), C-41 print [Tacoma Art Museum, Tacoma WA, Mar 17-Jun 10] Collection of the artist, New York. © Cass Bird

Romaine Brooks, Self-Portrait

Romaine Brooks, Self-Portrait (1923), oil on canvas [Tacoma Art Museum, Tacoma WA, Mar 17-Jun 10] Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C. Gift of the artist.

Minor White, Tom Murphy

Minor White, Tom Murphy (San Francisco) (1948), gelatin silver print [Tacoma Art Museum, Tacoma WA, Mar 17-Jun 10] The Minor White Archive, Princeton University Art museum; Bequest of Minor White, MWA 48-136. ©Trustees of Princeton University.

Organized by the Smithsonian Institute’s National Portrait Gallery, this exhibition stirred much controversy when it opened in 2010. Hide/Seek is a broad survey which examines in seven distinct categories the role sexual identity has played in American portraiture since the 1890s.

The chronology begins with works by John Singer Sargent and Thomas Eakins, and includes a portrait of the elderly Walt Whitman. Early modernists are represented by artists like Marsden Hartley, Berenice Abbott and Georgia O'Keeffe.

The 1923 self-portrait by Romaine Brooks is particularly poignant for its sense of mystery and the 1917 George Bellows print of a nude young male being propositioned, was apparently popular and widely circulated at the time.

The post-war period includes Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns and identifies the significant contribution artists with a marginalized sexuality had in defining entire genres of contemporary art. The influential Stonewall Riots in New York created an attitude of openness that can be seen in Robert Mapplethorpe's self-portrait from 1975, and Andy Warhol’s series of Camouflage Self-Portraits capture an essence of hiding in plain sight.

Works influenced by the AIDS epidemic highlight artists such as Keith Haring and include a segment of David Wojnarowicz’s film A Fire in My Belly which was censored in the original exhibit. Completing the show are works by contemporary artists like Cass Bird and Annie Leibovitz representing a postmodern reflection on gender and androgynous identity.

Allyn Cantor

 Thu, Apr 5, 2012