Exhibition: ‘American Cool’ at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC

Magnifiques photos N&B – magnifique Amérique

Art Blart

Exhibition dates: 7th February – 7th September 2014

Bruce Davidson. 'Untitled' from the 'Brooklyn Gang' series 1959

Bruce Davidson
Untitled from the Brooklyn Gang series

Danny Lyon. 'Crossing the Ohio River, Louisville, 1966' 1966

Danny Lyon
Crossing the Ohio River, Louisville, 1966
Silver gelatin print

Each cool figure was considered with the following historical rubric in mind and possesses at least three elements of this singular American self-concept:

  1. an original artistic vision carried off with a signature style
  2. cultural rebellion or transgression for a given generation
  3. iconic power, or instant visual recognition
  4. a recognized cultural legacy

Every individual here created an original persona without precedent in American culture. These photographs capture the complex relationship between the real-life person, the image embraced by fans and the media, and the person’s artistic work.

What does it mean when a generation claims a certain figure as cool? What qualities does this person embody at that historical moment? American Cool explores these questions through photography, history, and popular culture. In this…

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