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2022 Highlights

Drawing by Leonardo da Vinci Given to National Gallery

Leonardo da Vinci, Grotesque Head of an Old Woman, 1489/14901489/1490

Leonardo da Vinci, Grotesque Head of an Old Woman, 1489/1490, pen and brown ink on laid paper; laid down, Gift of Dian Woodner, 2022.84.1

Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519) frequently recorded his ideas and observations in notes and sketches, regardless of subject matter. More of Leonardo’s drawings have survived than those by any other artist of the Italian Renaissance. Dian Woodner, who has donated many works over the years to the National Gallery of Art, has now given the museum Leonardo’s Grotesque Head of an Old Woman (1489/1490), one of a series of some 30 studies, identical in small format, style, and technique.

These drawings represent Leonardo’s most sustained exploration of human physiognomy. Drawing as a system for studying nature and preparing other works of art—as the most basic system of representation in the Western tradition—was barely a generation old when he made these drawings, between c. 1495 and 1506/1508. Leonardo, who owned the principal early treatises on physiognomy and wrote about it in his notebooks, was the first artist to take that system beyond ideal types. He used it to attempt the most minute physical variations and to reach beyond surface appearance to evoke personality and convey character.

Like the other imaginary heads, this drawing appears to have been a stand-alone exercise. It helped to prepare and inform the unprecedented range and subtlety of human expression in Leonardo’s paintings. His Milanese followers would take these studies literally. This old woman appears in several contemporary copies—the National Gallery possesses one by Francesco Melzi, Leonardo’s closest follower—and as a new type in various paintings, even north of the Alps. The influence of these drawings never waned in European art, inspiring all later physiognomic studies and laying the foundation of caricature, which flourished in 18th-century England.

Imaginary but utterly individual, this woman is an exquisite example of this type of drawing. It depicts the head and bust of an aged woman with an elaborate coiffure and wearing a small tiara. Her physical peculiarities are pronounced, and she is emblematic of the ravages of time and the fading of physical beauty. Leonardo uses a few strokes of the pen to suggest the shriveled skin, the low and receding forehead, as well as the small aquiline nose, while the lower lip and chin are almost nonexistent. The lines that describe the small folds in the upper lip, nearly imperceptible, indicate the lack of teeth. The curved but wavering lines that describe the woman's shapeless bosom, complete with a carnation inserted in the laced-up bodice of the dress, are echoed by the opposing curve of her back, resembling a small hump.

This drawing also reflects Leonardo's interests in "jests" and "puzzles," consistent with a taste for visual and verbal play at the Sforza court in Milan, with which Leonardo was associated for 17 years. The frequency with which he drew grotesque heads is inspired by his continuous research of the monstrous, the astounding, and the unusual—alongside his pursuit of the beautiful and the sublime. These two contrasting aspects coexisted in the mind and work of Leonardo and constitute two of the major spheres around which his studies turned. This woman’s fallen chin and exaggerated scowl could be the stuff of crude humor. But the dignity of her pose, held firm in the profile of official portraiture, the touching accent of the carnation at her breast, and what seems a self-possession in the eye elevate her toward a complete being, of distinct form and inseparable being. This is the first time in the history of art that an individual existence is rendered so attentively and completely.

This group of drawings comes down directly from Leonardo’s studio with an uninterrupted and very distinguished provenance. The group was in the possession of the dukes of Chatsworth by 1723. This drawing is one of four that were sold at Christie’s, London, in 1984. One was acquired by the Getty, two by a private collector in New York, and this one by Ian Woodner, who assembled an extraordinary collection of over 1,000 old master and modern drawings, making him one of the 20th century's most important collectors. More than 150 works from his collection now reside at the National Gallery. While Woodner gave some works himself in the 1980s, the majority have been donated by his daughters, Dian and Andrea, both of whom have also made other gifts and have pledged works from their personal collections.

The drawing has been on deposit at the National Gallery since it was exhibited in 1999 and was pledged by Dian in 2017. It becomes the National Gallery’s second Leonardo drawing, joining a sheet of studies acquired with Armand Hammer’s collection in 1991. There are just nine other Leonardo drawings in American public collections: in addition to those from the Chatsworth sale, one more at the J. Paul Getty Museum, one at the Morgan Library and Museum, and six at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Grotesque Head of an Old Woman has been included in several exhibitions held at the National Gallery, including: The Touch of the Artist: Master Drawings from the Woodner Collections (1995–1996); Art for the Nation: Collecting for a New Century (2000–2001); Master Drawings from the Woodner Collections (2006); Arcimboldo, 1526–1593: Nature and Fantasy (2010–2011); and The Woodner Collections: Master Drawings from Seven Centuries (2017).

The National Gallery is the home of Leonardo da Vinci's haunting and hypnotic masterpiece, Ginevra de' Benci (c. 1474/1478), the only painting by the master in the Americas.

Gift of Tilt-Top Center Table by Duncan Phyfe

Duncan Phyfe, Center Table, 1825 - 18301825 - 1830

Duncan Phyfe, Center Table, 1825 - 1830, mahogany, Gift from the collection of John B. Bolton, 2021.110.1

Duncan Phyfe (1768–1854) was the premier furniture maker in New York during the first half of the 19th century. Working in a refined neoclassical style, he won the admiration of wealthy homeowners in New York, Philadelphia, and the South. The National Gallery of Art has been given an important center table by Phyfe dating to 1825–1830 from the collection of John B. Bolton.

Featuring a tripod pillar-and-claw base, the table has a circular top composed of a rayed pattern of book-matched, flame-grained mahogany veneers. A star-shaped disk of light-colored burlwood sits at the center. Lighter and more mobile than traditional card tables, this example has a top that tilts up, allowing it to be tucked into the corner of a room where its surface could still be admired. The veneered pattern resembles those created by a kaleidoscope—an optical device that won international popularity after it was patented by the Scottish scientist David Brewster in 1817. Phyfe may have been directly inspired in his design by looking through a kaleidoscope. The table appears to have held personal significance for Phyfe. He gave it to his daughter, possibly as a wedding gift in 1825.

Three Engravings by Jan Muller of Mercury Abducting Psyche

Jan Muller, after Adriaen de Vries, Mercury Abducting Psyche, c. 1597

Jan Muller, after Adriaen de Vries, Mercury Abducting Psyche, c. 1597, engraving on laid paper, Ruth and Jacob Kainen Memorial Acquisition Fund, 2022.24.1

Jan Muller, after Adriaen de Vries, Mercury Abducting Psyche, c. 1597

Jan Muller, after Adriaen de Vries, Mercury Abducting Psyche, c. 1597, engraving on laid paper, Ruth and Jacob Kainen Memorial Acquisition Fund, 2022.24.2

Jan Muller, after Adriaen de Vries, Mercury Abducting Psyche, c. 1597

Jan Muller, after Adriaen de Vries, Mercury Abducting Psyche, c. 1597, engraving on laid paper, Ruth and Jacob Kainen Memorial Acquisition Fund, 2022.24.3

Netherlandish artist Jan Muller (1571–1628) was among the most imaginative and refined of a group of engravers that flourished between Haarlem and the imperial court at Prague around the turn of the 16th century. The National Gallery of Art has acquired Muller’s Mercury Abducting Psyche (c. 1597), a series of three engravings based on a 1593 sculpture of the same name by Adriaen de Vries (c. 1556–1626).

In these prints, Muller rendered the statue from three different points of view. By translating a life-size marble of erotic subject and complicated torsion into black-and-white line work of remarkably abstract organization and exhaustive execution, the series demonstrates his extraordinary virtuosity. The series is a late and exceptional example in the paragone—the Renaissance argument about the relative merits of artistic media (usually sculpture and painting) and resulting attempts to demonstrate the superiority of one over another. Not only does this series epitomize the last flourishing of mannerism, but it also asserts the representational potential and high status of engraving.

The Finding of Moses by Giovanni Battista Gaulli, called Baciccio

Giovanni Battista Gaulli, The Finding of Moses, c. 1685/1690c. 1685/1690

Giovanni Battista Gaulli, The Finding of Moses, c. 1685/1690, pen and black ink with brush and gray wash and white gouache over traces of black chalk on brown laid paper, William B. O'Neal Fund, 2022.26.1

Giovanni Battista Gaulli (1639–1709), called Baciccio, was the leading painter in late 17th-century Rome. He combined the brilliant color, fluid movement, and decorative extravagance of his Genoese training with the plasticity and mystical fervor of Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598–1680), with whom he collaborated for almost 20 years. The National Gallery of Art has acquired Baciccio’s drawing The Finding of Moses (c. 1685/1690), the first work by the artist in any medium to enter the collection. Not only does this work demonstrate Baciccio’s relationship to sculpture and help to explain the transition from high baroque to the rococo, but it also advances the National Gallery’s representation of Genoese draftsmanship.          

The Finding of Moses recalls the popularity of this subject in Genoese art of the period, specifically of Paolo Veronese’s (1528–1588) many versions of the theme. The depiction of space ranges from a dense portrayal of the foreground to a light sketch of the background, while the movement of the figures is simultaneously sculptural and effortlessly mobile. A rich layering of techniques implies that the palette Baciccio used to create the work is unusually large and saturated for a drawing of the period. Despite the scale and economy of the work, the rhyming gestures and facial expressions of the figures portray sincere surprise, concern, and tenderness. This drawing reveals a creative process that is systematic, but completely personal, and demonstrates the Genoese preference for highly finished and marketable graphic works.

Rosalind Fox Solomon’s Photographic Series “Portraits in the Time of AIDS”

For many decades, American artist Rosalind Fox Solomon (b. 1930) has recorded people and their interactions with one another and their environments. She has photographed around the world and is best known for her richly detailed, humanistic portraits of people struggling and surviving in the face of adversity, particularly her series Portraits in the Time of AIDS (1987–1988). The original set of 85 prints of these unflinching photographs depicting the daily lives of men, women, and children with the disease has recently been given to the National Gallery of Art by Annie and Paul Mahon. These works present a poignant and compassionate record of a fraught time, when fear, not facts, dominated the response to the epidemic.

Fox Solomon began to photograph at age 38, and it became her life's passion. As she has recalled, "I felt that photography was something that belonged to me, that nobody could take it away from me. I felt that I could say anything I wanted with it, and I didn't have to hold myself back. I could be totally honest. And that’s how I've always tried to be with it, right from the beginning." Fox Solomon studied with the legendary photographer Lisette Model, who challenged her students to boldly confront their subjects, recording the physical and emotional impact of modern life.

Fox Solomon's empathetic approach is articulated in Portraits in the Time of AIDS, one of her most celebrated bodies of work. Following earlier pictures made in a hospital in Chattanooga in the 1970s and portraits taken in nursing homes in Peru and Mexico in the 1980s, she felt an urgent need to portray those suffering during the AIDS crisis. As the illness ravaged the gay community in the late 1980s, Fox Solomon photographed not only its physical symptoms, but also the isolation and prejudice experienced by those touched by the virus. She also captured the love and care of family and friends, conveyed by a hug, a kiss, or a hand being held.

When she began the project, Fox Solomon attended weekly dinners for those with AIDS at Saint Peter's Church in the hope that she could persuade some attendees to be photographed. She remembers that there were many lively conversations and copious chatter about doctors and medications, but there "was little talk of death; the tone, the words were life." Soon she began photographing her new friends, not at the church, but in their homes and, somewhat later, in hospitals. Although on previous projects she had worked in silence, Fox Solomon describes these sessions as filled with touching interchanges between herself and her subjects. Most of the portraits are of gay men, but she also sought out women and children to document the widespread and devastating impact of the AIDS epidemic.

Fox Solomon's work has been shown in nearly 30 solo exhibitions and 100 group exhibitions and is in the collections of over 50 museums worldwide.

LaToya Ruby Frazier’s “The Notion of Family” Series

LaToya Ruby Frazier (b. 1982) employs her photography to call attention to economic, environmental, and racial inequalities, from the clean water crisis in Flint, Michigan, to the closing of the major auto plant in Lordstown, Ohio. The National Gallery of Art has recently acquired seven prints from her landmark series The Notion of Family (2001–2014).
The first works by Frazier to the enter the collection, The Notion of Family depicts the artist and her family in her hometown of Braddock, Pennsylvania, outside Pittsburgh in the Monongahela Valley. A small town with a majority-Black population, Braddock has been deeply affected by sustained environmental protection agency violations. In 2010 the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center closed Braddock's local hospital and moved it to a more affluent area. The destruction of the former hospital's buildings is movingly chronicled in Frazier's photographs as a devastating loss. In addition to panoramic views of Braddock's desolate streets and remaining industry at the nearby Edgar Thomson Steel Works, Frazier also focused on intimate moments of her family’s life. Describing her work as "a family album . . . for a family that didn't have an album," she has noted that they "lived on a shrinking street, in a shrinking community, next to a steel mill, a railroad, and a river that was polluted." Engaging her family as collaborators, she chronicled her relationship with her grandmother Ruby, who died of cancer, and her mother, who also suffers health problems caused by the area's pollution. These works are a vivid testament to the lived experience of Frazier and her family, juxtaposing their struggles with the beauty of the Monongahela Valley and its declining industrial infrastructure.

Grit Kallin-Fischer Photograph Highlights Pioneering Contributions of Women Photographers During the 1920s

Grit Kallin-Fischer, Untitled (Freddo Bortoluzzi as Angel), c. 1928–1930c. 1928–1930

Grit Kallin-Fischer, Untitled (Freddo Bortoluzzi as Angel), c. 1928–1930, gelatin silver print, Pepita Milmore Memorial Fund, 2022.54.1

The National Gallery of Art has recently acquired a photograph by Grit Kallin-Fischer (1897–1973)—an example of the pioneering contributions of women to the photographic innovation taking place in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s. Untitled (Freddo Bortoluzzi as Angel) (c. 1928–1930) is the first work by Kallin-Fischer to enter the collection and depicts her friend, the artist Alfredo "Freddo" Bortoluzzi (1905–1995), who went on to become a dancer and choreographer. The two met as students at the Bauhaus, an experimental art school in Dessau.
Kallin-Fischer was an established painter when she enrolled in the Bauhaus in 1926. She took courses with many noteworthy artists, including Josef Albers, Wassily Kandinsky, and Paul Klee. She also worked in László Moholy-Nagy's metal workshop alongside Marianne Brandt. Kallin-Fischer and Bortoluzzi both participated in Oskar Schlemmer's radical theater workshop, which completely reimagined the discipline. Their friendship is documented in the portraits they later made of each other. Kallin-Fischer took several photographs of Bortoluzzi performing as an ethereal being. Wearing white makeup and dressed in a simple white sheath, he has a pair of wings that seem to sprout from his neck. A striking study of tonality, Kallin-Fischer's skill is revealed in her deft cropping of the picture. She has used the structure of a window to create a frame around her subject, an angel who looks down from above.

First Painting by Early Modern Italian Woman Artist Lavinia Fontana

Lavinia Fontana, Lucia Bonasoni Garzoni, c. 1590c. 1590

Lavinia Fontana, Lucia Bonasoni Garzoni, c. 1590, oil on canvas , Gift of Funds from Anonymous in memory of Montana Walker Strauss, and Patrons' Permanent Fund, 2022.38.1

This highly detailed and exquisite portrait depicts the 16th-century musician Lucia Bonasoni Garzoni (b. 1561­–at least 1610) by the most productive woman artist of the late 16th century, the Bolognese painter Lavinia Fontana. This portrait is among Fontana’s best preserved and most accomplished surviving works in the genre. A rare depiction of a 16th-century woman musician by a 16th-century woman artist, this painting tells the story of two accomplished women who were able to overcome obstacles in a patriarchal society to succeed in the artistic spheres of painting and music.

Fontana died just before her 62nd birthday after a highly successful career. Trained by her father, Prospero Fontana (1512–1597), in the late mannerist style, and most famous for her portraits of noblewomen, she produced her first dateable works around 1575. In addition to portraits, she painted secular and religious subjects, including altarpieces for churches (a rarity in the period), portraits of scholars, and mythological nudes—a subject that was unheard of for women in the period. In 1577, Fontana married Gian Paolo Zappi (c. 1555–1615), who acted as her business manager; she supported her family, which included 11 children, with the profits from her painting. Fontana is one of 68 known women artists from Bologna in the early modern period and was a trailblazer for women artists who succeeded her.

 Carved Statue by 17th Century Artist Luisa Roldán

Luisa Roldán, Virgin and Child, c. 1680/1686c. 1680/1686

Luisa Roldán, Virgin and Child, c. 1680/1686, painted wood, Pepita Milmore Memorial Fund, Patrons' Permanent Fund and William and Buffy Cafritz Family Sculpture Fund, 2022.39.1

This small carved wood and painted statue by Luisa Roldán is the first work by a woman sculptor from before c. 1850 to enter the National Gallery’s collection. Widely accepted as a work by Roldán on stylistic grounds, it shares close similarities with a range of sculptures that are widely acknowledged to be by her.

Born in Seville, Roldán was the daughter of Pedro Roldán, one of the city’s most accomplished sculptors. Her introduction to sculpture most likely came from Pedro, with whom she worked in close partnership. At the age of 19, she left home to marry one of her father’s studio assistants, with whom she set up a workshop and began undertaking commissions. Some of her earliest works, identifiable by style, include various life-size figures in painted wood for altarpieces in Seville and processional floats (paseos) that reflect but differ from her father’s style.

In 1688 Roldán and her husband moved to Madrid, likely in expectation of an appointment at the court of King Carlos II. Eventually, she was awarded the royal title of escultora de cámara, which did not prove especially lucrative. She turned to specializing in painted terracotta scenes. When Felipe V ascended to the throne in 1701, she was reappointed to the Spanish court. Lauded for her accomplishments as a sculptor, she nevertheless died destitute, unable to pay for a funeral. On the day she died, she received recognition as an “Accademica di merito” from the Accademia di San Luca in Rome.

Major Two Volume Illustrated Book by Giorgio Fossati

Giorgio Fossati, Jean de La Fontaine, Raccolta di Varie Favole delineate ed incise in rame, 17441744

Giorgio Fossati, Jean de La Fontaine, Raccolta di Varie Favole delineate ed incise in rame, 1744, six volumes in two, with three etched headpieces and 216 etchings printed in color, bound in full contemporary Venetian vellum , Eugene L. and Marie-Louise Garbáty Fund, 2021.29.1

Giorgio Fossati (1705–1785), born in Switzerland but active in Italy, was an architect, writer, stage designer, draftsman, and printmaker. The National Gallery of Art has acquired Raccolta di Varie Favole delineate ed incise in rame (1744), a book that was issued in six parts and bound in two volumes featuring letterpress text and 216 full-page illustrations. The first major work by Fossati to enter the National Gallery's collection, these volumes feature their original 18th-century Venetian vellum binding boards and illustrations inked and printed in a different color, including hues of red, blue, and green. Fossati's etchings depicting the fables of Aesop and Jean de La Fontaine targeted an international audience with text written in Italian as well as French—the cosmopolitan language of the 18th century. Some of Fossati's images reference earlier printed works, including Albrecht Dürer's woodcut The Rhinoceros (1515).

Rare Drawing by Isack van Ostade Highlights Artistic Practice

Isack van Ostade, Workmen before an Inn, c. 1645

Isack van Ostade, Workmen before an Inn (recto), c. 1645, pen and brown ink and wash and watercolor over black chalk on laid paper, Nell Weidenhammer Fund, 2021.30.1.a

Isack van Ostade, Workmen before an Inn (verso), c. 1645, pen and brown ink and wash and watercolor over black chalk on laid paper, Nell Weidenhammer Fund, 2021.30.1.b

The National Gallery of Art has acquired Bust of Francesco I d'Este (c. 1890/1900), a dynamic wash drawing by Italian portrait painter Giovanni Boldini (1842–1931). This rare work captures, in variations of brown and blue, Gian Lorenzo Bernini's (1598–1680) bust of the Duke of Modena, Francesco I d'Este (1610–1658), now in the Galleria Estense at Modena. Boldini created his work during the height of his success as a society portrait painter in Paris.

The dramatic curls and vigorous movement in the drapery found in Bernini's marble resonate with Boldini's equally theatrical style. The drawing portrays the head in full profile and exaggerates the essential features of the sculpture, eliminating the complication of the lace collar and the hint of armor. While broad loose brushstrokes dominate the area around the bust, the area below the mantle has been left mostly blank, except for a small drop of wash and the artist's signature.

The drawing relates to several works from the same period, such as those by John Singer Sargent (1856–1925), with whom Boldini is often compared. Historically significant, the Bust of Francesco I d'Este helps explain the evolution of abstract form in the work of Italian artists of the period, from their very first attempts to the Macchiaioli and the futurists. These groups disengaged from representation in favor of a more extravagant personal gestural style.

The work joins three contemporary compositions by Boldini in the National Gallery's collection: a chalk portrait drawing, a drypoint portrait of James McNeill Whistler (1834–1903), and an oil painting on wood. The drawing of Francesco I d’'ste exemplifies the artist's iconic style and sensibility, broadens the holdings of fin-de-siècle artists, and bridges the divide between earlier 19th-century impressionism and 20th-century modernism.

Rare Wash Drawing by Giovanni Boldini

Giovanni Boldini, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Bust of Francesco I d'Este, c. 1890/1900c. 1890/1900

Giovanni Boldini, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Bust of Francesco I d'Este, c. 1890/1900, brown and blue washes on ivory wove paper, Patrons' Permanent Fund, 2021.31.1

The National Gallery of Art has acquired Bust of Francesco I d'Este (c. 1890/1900), a dynamic wash drawing by Italian portrait painter Giovanni Boldini (1842–1931). This rare work captures, in variations of brown and blue, Gian Lorenzo Bernini's (1598–1680) bust of the Duke of Modena, Francesco I d'Este (1610–1658), now in the Galleria Estense at Modena. Boldini created his work during the height of his success as a society portrait painter in Paris.

The dramatic curls and vigorous movement in the drapery found in Bernini's marble resonate with Boldini's equally theatrical style. The drawing portrays the head in full profile and exaggerates the essential features of the sculpture, eliminating the complication of the lace collar and the hint of armor. While broad loose brushstrokes dominate the area around the bust, the area below the mantle has been left mostly blank, except for a small drop of wash and the artist's signature.

The drawing relates to several works from the same period, such as those by John Singer Sargent (1856–1925), with whom Boldini is often compared. Historically significant, the Bust of Francesco I d'Este helps explain the evolution of abstract form in the work of Italian artists of the period, from their very first attempts to the Macchiaioli and the futurists. These groups disengaged from representation in favor of a more extravagant personal gestural style.

The work joins three contemporary compositions by Boldini in the National Gallery's collection: a chalk portrait drawing, a drypoint portrait of James McNeill Whistler (1834–1903), and an oil painting on wood. The drawing of Francesco I d’'ste exemplifies the artist's iconic style and sensibility, broadens the holdings of fin-de-siècle artists, and bridges the divide between earlier 19th-century impressionism and 20th-century modernism.

John Wilson “Young American” Suite and Five Additional Works on Paper

John Wilson (1922–2015) worked primarily as a draftsman and sculptor. He grew up in Boston, studied at the city’s School of the Museum of Fine Arts, helped establish the Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists, and taught art at Boston University for over 20 years. The National Gallery of Art has acquired Wilson's suite of five life-size, colored-crayon and charcoal drawings, and a compositional sketch for his unrealized mural Young Americans (c. 1972–1975), as well as one early watercolor, a monumental black-crayon study of a woman's profile, and three lithographs. Collectively, these works reveal the artist's passionate concern for the human condition and demonstrate his superb skill as a draftsman with a remarkable sensibility for creating dark tonalities and sculptural effects.

Important influences on Wilson's work include his studies with the French modernist Fernand Léger and his encounters with Asian, African, and other non-Western objects in the Musée de l'Homme in Paris in 1949. He then spent five years (1950–1955) in Mexico absorbing the lessons of the modern Mexican muralists and printmakers and their desire to create a public art that addressed communal values and experiences. As Wilson developed his style, he sought to combine the sculptural, curving figures and bold graphic compositions of the Mexican artists with the robust use of color, space, and stylized form that he admired in the work of Léger. In the early 1970s, his affinity for sculptural forms led to a shift from painting to sculpture as his primary medium, although works on paper remained a vital part of his practice.

In the early 1970s Wilson's home in Brookline, Massachusetts, was the favorite hangout for his teenage children and their friends of all races, reflecting his interracial marriage and the progressive values the family upheld. This led to an idea for a mural, Young Americans, for which Wilson created a compositional sketch and individual life-size portrait studies of his children and their friends. Although the mural was never realized, these drawings stand as testament to what Wilson described as a hopeful moment in the early 1970s when greater racial harmony seemed within reach for his children's generation. Wilson saw that hope in notable Black political and cultural achievements, such as Shirley Chisolm's campaign for president, the establishment of the Congressional Black Caucus, the election of the first African American mayors in Newark, Los Angeles, and Detroit, and the first Pulitzer Prize for Drama awarded to an African American, Charles Gordone.

Five additional works by Wilson are included in this acquisition. The watercolor, Le Métro, (made in Paris in 1949) shows the extent of Léger's influence on Wilson's early work. In The Trial (1951), Wilson visualizes the oppressive racist bias of the court system in an imagined scene from the infamous trial of the "Scottsboro Boys" in which nine young African American men were falsely accused of raping two white women. In this image, Wilson depicts members of the all-white jury with mask-like faces glaring down at a Black defendant.  

One of Wilson's finest Mexican prints, Trabajador (1951), demonstrates his use of modernist space and simplified geometric forms to glorify the Mexican laborer, emphasized by the figure's oversized hands, stoic expression, and central placement within the composition. His lithograph Campesinos (1954) reveals his increasing interest in portraying human relationships and underlying commonalities across humankind. Wilson captures the enduring fortitude of the rural workforce in the solidity of their forms, while their curved postures, echoed in the repeated archways in the background, underscore the heavy burdens they bear. Particularly moving are the protective cradling of the child and the figures turned toward one another, hinting at the intimate ties within this family unit. This lithograph also exemplifies Wilson's mastery of the range of tonal possibilities of the medium.

Roz, the young woman portrayed in Study for "Eternal Presence" (1972), was a family friend and one of Wilson's favorite models. She appears wearing a pink turban at the far right of his compositional study for the Young Americans mural. Wilson was particularly taken with her striking profile. He developed numerous studies of her that varied in degree of abstraction, linear contour, and highly modeled detail, as seen here. Roz served as a key source for Wilson's sculptural magnum opus, the grand cast bronze head, Eternal Presence, installed on the grounds of the Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists in Roxbury in 1987. Long fascinated by the human figure, and inspired by Buddhist, Olmec, and Easter Island examples, Wilson envisioned Eternal Presence, a monumental, genderless, idealized African head, to serve as a universal icon representing humankind.

Christina Fernandez’s “Lavenderia” Series and “Bend” Installation Piece

Christina Fernandez (b. 1965), a Los Angeles–based Latinx artist, uses photographs and installations to explore her Mexican heritage and themes of identity, migration, labor, and gender. The National Gallery of Art has acquired six prints from her Lavanderia (2002–2003) series, which depicts laundromats in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles, an area of the city that was known at the time as a bastion of Chicano culture, as well as her installation piece, Bend (1999–2000, 2020). These works not only join others by such Latinx photographers as Benedict Fernandez, Anthony Hernandez, and Ana Mendieta, but also build on the conceptual work of Los Angeles–based photographers Lewis Baltz, John Divola, and Judy Fiskin, who explored the new urban and suburban architecture that was transforming the region in the 1970s and 1980s. All are now represented in the National Gallery’s collection.

Lavanderia #1, 2, 4, 8, 9, and 11 depict the familiar scene of a laundromat at night. By focusing tightly on its windows and eliminating peripheral elements, Fernandez forces us to look carefully at this space. Working at night and using a 4 x 5 inch camera and long exposure times, Fernandez created highly detailed pictures that record domestic labor as it is transacted in public. Lavanderia #1 is the most widely celebrated picture from this series. Its calligraphic and nearly illegible graffiti, with numerous drips and splats, amplify and obscure the movement of the people within the laundromat, highlighting the sterility of the environment.  Fernandez shows them performing a very personal act—washing their clothes—in a very public space, many after working all day. While she has often explored, in her words, "the blur of labor, the anonymity of the laborer, the stillness of leisure," Lavanderia #1 also addresses, as Edward Hopper did, the light that emerges from buildings at night, infusing psychological tensions into everyday life.

In 1999 and 2000 Fernandez traveled to Oaxaca, Mexico, to explore her family’s connection to the region and to the ancient Zapotec ruins at Monte Albán. Although she photographed there, the project remained unresolved until 2020 when she conceived Bend (1999–2000, 2020). Fernandez created a wall mural with a print of Monte Albán and five photographs hung over it—four smaller photographs of the ruin and its surrounding landscape, and one of her body smeared with dirt. She also printed a text on the mural about her experiences in Oaxaca as she sought to bridge the gap between herself and the landscape, and between herself and her family back in California. The title Bend refers not only to her need to reflect light into the darkened chambers of the ruin, but also to the act that she and her family, as well as all immigrants, perform as they leave one culture and bend their lives to adapt to a new one. Together these elements create a powerfully evocative installation about identity, migration, and loss.

Freddy Rodríguez Painting Examines Life in the Dominican Republic under Dictatorship

Freddy Rodríguez, Paradise for a Tourist Brochure, 19901990

Freddy Rodríguez, Paradise for a Tourist Brochure, 1990, acrylic, sawdust, and newspaper collage on canvas, Gift of Funds from The Ahmanson Foundation, and Patrons' Permanent Fund, 2022.45.1

Celebrated for his hard-edged abstract and expressionistic paintings, Freddy Rodríguez (b. 1945) explores Caribbean and Latinx history, often focusing on the Dominican Republic’s indigenous and colonial past as well as its history of enslavement, turbulent contemporary history, and the migration of Dominicans to the United States. Rodríguez’s artistic practice and subjects embody his commitment to aesthetic and political freedom. The National Gallery of Art has acquired Paradise for a Tourist Brochure (1990), an important work from a series devoted to unmasking the tactics of the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo, who ruled the Dominican Republic from 1930 until his assassination in 1961.

Among the most ambitious works in this series, Paradise for a Tourist Brochure features a large butterfly suspended over a painted and collaged background of full-sized rectangular sheets of pages from the arts section of The New York Times. Begun during the exposure of the United States’ involvement in Central America during the late 1980s, the series was triggered by the U.S. intervention in Panama in 1989. For the artist, butterflies symbolize silent witnesses to the atrocities of life in the Americas since the Conquest. Underscoring this connection, the artist transcribed the word "paradise" in hand-painted script 44 times over the surface of the painting. This repetition, and the title that conjures the superficiality of tourist paraphernalia, suggest the duplicity of Trujillo’s rule. Three painted bullet holes dripping in red paint evoking blood and handprints on the lower register suggesting the scene of a crime disrupt these idyllic references. The painting’s title is also a wry reference to how tourists often view the Caribbean as paradise and overlook the region’s violent past.  

Since the early 1980s Rodríguez has used ephemeral materials linked to the New York art scene to comment on the racial and social exclusions of the mainstream art world. Working between foreground (painted elements) and background (collage), Rodríguez equates Trujillo’s dictatorial regime to the power wielded by art galleries, museums, auction houses, and critics who decide what is worthy of being sold, displayed, collected, studied, and preserved. The collaged elements function as a time capsule circa 1990, highlighting galleries, artists, and terminology that once held sway. Even though several ads and articles mention African American and Latin American artists, including Benny Andrews (1930–2006) and Frida Kahlo (1907–1954), whose self-portrait Rodriguez surrounds with rays of red paint, they are dwarfed by the references to American art and its major established figures, including Helen Frankenthaler (1928–2011), Franz Kline (1910–1962), and Jackson Pollock (1912–1956).

Mariano Rodríguez Painting Explores Cuban National Culture

Mariano Rodríguez, Reunión en la OEA (Meeting at the OAS), 19651965

Mariano Rodríguez, Reunión en la OEA (Meeting at the OAS), 1965, oil on canvas, Gift of Lourdes and Alejandro Rodríguez, 2022.44.1

Mariano Rodríguez (1912–1990) was a major figure of the Vanguardia (Cuban avant-garde), a multifaceted group of artists who were deeply committed to forging a modern Cuban art in the first half of the 20th century. He was part of the second generation of artists who absorbed and transformed global art movements to express Cuban national culture. The National Gallery of Art has acquired Rodríguez’s Reunión en la OEA (1965), an ambitious painting from the artist’s later career.

The painting is tied to the rise of Nueva Figuración (New Figuration), a mid-20th-century Latin American artistic movement that merged abstract and figurative tendencies to express the human condition in a time of global crisis. Reunión en la OEA specifically critiques the politics of the Organization of American States (OAS) after it suspended Cuba, a founding member of the organization, following the Cuban Missile Crisis. Mariano, an avowed communist and supporter of Fidel Castro, responded to this rejection in his portrayal of a "meeting at the OAS" as a grotesque and dehumanizing scene. Scatological references, bloodied and wounded figures, and monstrous forms reminiscent of Francisco Goya’s (1746–1828) Black paintings dominate the composition. On the right-hand side, three generals stand at command, perhaps referring to emergent authoritarian regimes in Latin America, while the red and white striped pattern in the upper left recalls the United States flag, a reference to the nation that led the effort to eject Cuba from the OAS.  

During the 1930s Mariano studied in Mexico, where he was drawn to artists affiliated with the Contemporáneos magazine, especially his teacher, Manuel Rodríguez Lozano, who favored easel painting and aesthetic experimentation and shunned politically explicit art. After returning to Cuba, Mariano devoted himself to painting scenes of daily life populated by monumental and mythical figures evocative of a multiracial Cuban population. In the 1940s he became known for his rooster paintings, portraying monumental and close-up views of this ubiquitous animal of the Cuban countryside.

Mariano Rodríguez was a founding member of the influential cultural group centered around the magazine Orígenes (1945–1956). He embraced a neo-baroque sensibility that favored expressionism and references to Cuban subjects. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, Mariano traveled to the United States, where he encountered the work of Paul Cézanne (1839–1906) and Pablo Picasso (1881–1973), as well as the abstract art scene in New York. By the 1950s he began fusing geometric and biomorphic forms, but never fully abandoned figuration.

Acquisition: Richard Misrach and Guillermo Galindo Collaboration Explores US-Mexico Border

Between 2011 and 2014 photographer Richard Misrach (b. 1949) and experimental composer and sculptor Guillermo Galindo (b. 1960) collaborated on a project that examines the urgent political and social issues surrounding the United States–Mexico border and their human impact. The artists have given the National Gallery its first intermedia work addressing our southern border. The gift consists of 18 inkjet prints of varying size—all drawn from Misrach’s ongoing Border Cantos series; and Galindo’s Zapatello (2014), made from objects abandoned on the border and inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s design for a hammering machine (martello).

Since 2004, Misrach has photographed the 2,000-mile-long border between the United States and Mexico, recording both the wall that intermittently separates the two countries and the artifacts that migrants and federal agents have left behind. Beginning in 2011, he sent Galindo artifacts found at the border, including children’s backpacks, castoff clothing, shooting targets, and Border Patrol drag tires (used to smooth the sandy terrain and thus detect fresh footprints made by migrants crossing it). Inspired by musical traditions from around the world, Galindo transformed these abandoned objects into musical instruments and composed original scores for them.

Acquisition: 44 Photographs by Wayne Miller

Wayne Miller, Railroad Passenger Car Maintenance Man. Air Hoses Were Used to Clean the Cars, Chicago, Illinois, 1947, printed later1947, printed later

Wayne Miller, Railroad Passenger Car Maintenance Man. Air Hoses Were Used to Clean the Cars, Chicago, Illinois, 1947, printed later, gelatin silver print, Gift of Wayne F. Miller Family, 2021.89.19

The National Gallery of Art has been given 44 gelatin silver prints by the esteemed documentary photographer Wayne Miller (1918–2013). Given on behalf of his family and the artist’s estate, the group of photographs comprise a rich variety of themes central to his career. These are the first works by the artist to enter the collection and they deepen our holdings of documentary photography from the 1940s with compelling pictures that convey the horrific experience of war as well as the fullness of Black life in post-war Chicago.
Born in Chicago, Miller pursued studies in banking and business at the University of Illinois but turned his attention to photography in the early 1940s. He enlisted in the navy after the start of World War II as was assigned to the Naval Aviation Unit led by the famed photographer Edward Steichen (1879–1973). Miller documented the war mainly in the Pacific and was among the first Americans to take pictures of the devastation in Hiroshima after the atomic bomb was dropped in 1945. This experience convinced Miller of the importance of using photography to bring people together in meaningful ways. He returned to Chicago and spent two years photographing on the city’s South Side engaging with the vibrant African American community. Miller was awarded two consecutive Guggenheim Fellowships in support of his project which includes pictures of daily life, street scenes, and compelling pictures of workers, such as a railroad maintenance man. Captured in mid-stride as he carries air hoses used to clean passenger cars, the young man assertively returns the photographer’s gaze. Other works included in the gift are photographs of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s funeral procession in Washington, DC, as well as intimate portraits of the photographer’s family.

Vik Muniz Photographs Given by Tony Podesta

Over the past two decades, gifts from the collection of Tony Podesta have contributed significantly to the contemporary holdings of the National Gallery of Art. Podesta has recently donated The Best of LIFE (1989, printed 1995) by Vik Muniz (b. 1961), a portfolio of ten gelatin silver prints. These will join six later photographs by Muniz made between 1998 and 2011, also in the collection.

In 1983 when Muniz arrived in the United States from Brazil, he purchased a book titled The Best of LIFE, which included reproductions of iconic photographs by Margaret Bourke-White (1904–1971), Alfred Eisenstaedt (1898–1995), and others. Inspired by the idea that strangers shared a common visual memory, he drew great comfort from the book and saw it as a way of connecting with people in his adopted home. After he lost the book, he made drawings of several of the pictures, investigating, as he said, "the image within"—how we remember images. Next, he photographed the drawings, and to further approximate how he had first seen them in reproduction, he printed them through a halftone screen. He published these "memory renderings" in a portfolio in 1995.

Carla Accardi, Rossorosa

Carla Accardi, Rossorosa, 1966, varnish on Sicofoil on cardboard, 19 3/4 x 27 1/2 in., National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of the Collectors Committee

Born in Trapani, Sicily, Carla Accardi (1924–2014) was a prominent figure of postwar Italian art and the Italian feminist movement. After studying at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Florence, Accardi moved to Rome in 1946 and became a founding member of the Forma I group (1947–1951). Emerging during the postwar era of intense political and aesthetic debate in Italy, the Forma I artists attempted to reconcile Marxist ideals with abstract form. An exquisite example of Accardi’s experimental practice, Rossorosa (1966) is the first painting by Accardi to enter the collection of the National Gallery of Art.

Accardi is best known for her works in Sicofoil, a transparent plastic used in commercial packaging, which she was introduced to in 1965. Sicofoil inspired her to explore its unique qualities, which she enhanced through such techniques as painting, wrapping, and stretching. In Rossorosa, wavelike forms are painted in red varnish on a sheet of clear Sicofoil suspended in front of pink cardboard. The work exemplifies Accardi’s preference for combinations of maximum-intensity hues and bold patterns to create powerful optical effects.

Rossarosa also speaks to the history of 20th-century Italian art and critical discourse. The wavelike shapes establish a symmetrical pattern reminiscent of the dynamic, repeated forms of Italian futurist artist Giacomo Balla (1871–1958). Like the works of such contemporaries as Lucio Fontana (1899–1968) and Piero Manzoni (1933–1963), Rossorosa disrupts the homogenous surface of oil on canvas of conventional painting, challenging the definition of what a painting is.

Anticipating the use of industrially produced soft materials by the Arte Povera artists during the late 1960s, Accardi’s experiments in Sicofoil would become a central reference in the writings of the art critic Carla Lonzi (1931–1982), with whom Accardi cofounded the Rivolta Femminile (Women’s Revolt) collective in 1970. Well established during her lifetime, Accardi’s renown has continued to grow since her death, as testified by the inclusion of her paintings in the 2022 Venice Biennale curated by Cecilia Alemani.

Chakaia Booker, Egress

Chakaia Booker, Egress, c. 2000, rubber tires, 50 x 53 x 50 in., National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of the Collectors Committee

Chakaia Booker (b. 1953) works almost exclusively with recycled tires to transform familiar symbols of urban waste and blight into extraordinary compositions of renewal. The National Gallery of Art has acquired Egress (c. 2000), the first sculptural work by Booker to enter the collection, joining her woodcut print, Untitled (2011).

In Egress, numerous long, spiraling bands and short, spiky shards of rubber appear to unfurl from within and pour over and around the pedestal. The layers curl, pile, and protrude to form a mound that is simultaneously monstrous and playful, hard and soft, abstract and representational. While the plantlike, layered form recalls ivy or fern, the tracks, treads, and manufacturer name (Cooper) embossed on the sidewalls remind us of the medium’s previous automotive life.

Booker’s artistic practice is highly physical, from transporting the tires to reshaping them with machinery. Her use of discarded rubber references industrialization and factory labor as well as transportation, consumer culture, and environmental concerns. Her process of salvaging beauty from scraps of black rubber serves as a metaphor for Black American experiences of struggle, strength, and survival. Details of the tires demonstrate the capacity for meaning in Booker’s forms: the varied tones that parallel human diversity, the treads suggestive of African scarification and textile designs, and the visible wear and tear that evokes the physical marks of human aging and inevitable distress in life. As she has said, “[my] intention is to translate simple yet complex materials into imagery that stimulates people to reconsider the expressive nature of art and how broad, complex cultural transformations can continue to be expressed through common materials.”

Sonia Gomes, Correnteza [Current], from Raízes [Roots] series

Sonia Gomes, Correnteza [Current], from Raízes [Roots] series, 2018, stitching, bindings, different fabrics and laces on wood, 35 1/2 x 82 x 36 in., National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of the Collectors Committee

Sonia Gomes (b. 1948), a contemporary Afro-Brazilian artist who lives and works in São Paulo, Brazil, is known for her mixed-media works made of fabric, wire, and other materials. The National Gallery of Art has just acquired Correnteza (Current) (2018), a sculpture from her Raízes (Roots) series.

Gomes brings the aesthetic and the human together in memorable sculptures that are at once traditionally Brazilian and fluently contemporary. Most important to Gomes's practice is the fact that the pieces of fabric she works with are almost always given to her. “I feel that when people give me these items, they are bestowing a great responsibility on me, a sort of plea asking me not to let them die,” she has said.

Textiles continue to be at the heart of Gomes's work as she addresses floors, walls, and ceilings: among her many series are reliefs, hanging works (Acordes Naturais), and, most recently, wrappings around branches (Raízes). Correnteza epitomizes the blurring of “high” and “low” and of international modernism and Afro-Brazilian tradition found in Gomes’s approach. In this work, the drawing-in-space of a modernist like David Smith (1906–1965) meets the fabric work of a Brazilian outsider like Arthur Bispo do Rosário (1909–1989) (one of Gomes’s heroes). Other artists in the National Gallery’s collection who have used fabric to explore similar intersections include Miriam Schapiro (1923–2015), Louise Bourgeois (1911–2010), Al Loving (1935–2005), Thornton Dial (1928–2016), Ernesto Neto (b. 1964), and Hélio Oiticica (1937–1980).

Gomes was born in Caetanópolis, Brazil, a center of textile manufacturing. Her mother died when she was three years old and she was raised for three years by her maternal grandmother, a shaman who performed folk cures and who twisted fabric to make rodilhas, cloth turbans. When Gomes returned to her father's house, she absorbed European culture in his extensive library. At age 28 she moved to Belo Horizonte, capital of Brazil’s Minas Gerais state, and eventually studied law but continued to make her own clothing and jewelry. In 1988, when she was 40, Gomes started to take free art classes at the Guignard School. She left her law career in 1993 to devote herself to art. In 2015, she gained international renown when curator Okwui Enwezor included her in the Venice Biennale. Her solo exhibition in 2018 at MASP, the São Paulo Art Museum, was the institution’s first ever by an Afro-Brazilian woman. She currently lives and works in São Paulo.

Eight Works by Four African American Photographers

The National Gallery of Art has acquired eight works by four modern and contemporary African American photographers: Adger Cowans (b. 1936), Chester Higgins Jr. (b. 1946), Herman Howard (1942–1980), and Herb Robinson (b. unknown). Encouraged by Gordon Parks (1912–2006) and Roy DeCarava (1919–2009), they represent an important achievement in the history of photography—they empowered themselves to represent their own Black communities during the civil rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s.

Cowans, Howard, and Robinson were all early members of the Kamoinge Workshop, a group of Black photographers formed in 1963 to study together and share their work and ideas. Their images join those of fellow Kamoinge members Anthony Barboza (b. 1944), DeCarava, Louis Draper (1935–2002), James "Jimmie" Mannas (b. 1940), Beuford Smith (b. 1941), Ming Smith (b. 1947), and Shawn W. Walker (b. 1940) in the National Gallery’s collection.

Chester Higgins studied at Tuskegee University and began photographing friends, family, and civil rights protests, focusing on the dignity of his community. He traveled widely and became known for his poignant depictions of Black people—especially in Harlem—and their spiritual connections to the African diaspora. He was a staff photographer for the New York Times from 1975 to 2014.

Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Retrato de lo Eterno (Portrait of the Eternal)

Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Retrato de lo Eterno (Portrait of the Eternal), 19351935

Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Retrato de lo Eterno (Portrait of the Eternal), 1935, gelatin silver print, Nancy Rutter Clark Collection, 2021.87.7

Manuel Álvarez Bravo (1902–2002) is one of the most important figures in 20th-century Latin American photography. Rejecting stereotypes, he was deeply influenced by the Mexican muralists and interested in depicting the Indigenous heritage of the Mexican people. Donated by the Nancy Rutter Clark Collection to the National Gallery, Retrato de lo Enterno (Portrait of the Eternal) (1935) is the first vintage print by the artist to enter the collection, joining 30 other, later prints.

Retrato de lo Enterno (Portrait of the Eternal) is a vintage print of one of this photographer’s most celebrated works. It depicts Isabel Villaseñor—a noted post-revolutionary Mexican sculptor, painter, printmaker, poet, and songwriter—looking into a mirror as she pulls her hair back from her partially lit face. Using sunlight, as the poet Langston Hughes wrote of Bravo’s work, that is "a quiet veil making the shadows like velvet," Bravo transformed an everyday event into a poetic reflection on beauty, vanity, and the transitory nature of life.

Alfred Sisley, On the Banks of the Loing

Impressionist painter Alfred Sisley (1839–1899) was dedicated to capturing the landscape while working outdoors, in plein-air. The National Gallery of Art has acquired a rare set of four etchings that depict views of the Loing River, southwest of Paris, that join two other prints in the collection, making the National Gallery the only institution outside of Paris to have impressions of all six of Sisley’s prints, in addition to seven paintings depicting various French vistas.

Sisley made and exhibited impressions of these four etchings in Paris in 1890 at the request of the Société des peintres-graveurs français, a group that explored printmaking as an original art form and a means of personal expression. It appears that Sisley used an etching needle to sketch these landscapes directly into the waxy, acid-resistant ground of prepared plates outside, a practice that paralleled his plein-air painting practice. He then brought the plates back to his studio to “bite” them with acid and continue modifying the compositions; the etchings were printed in a very small number of impressions. Although Sisley created two lithographs in the 1890s, these four charming views of the Loing River were his only use of etching.

Richard Hunt, Untitled

Richard Hunt, Untitled, 19741974

Richard Hunt, Untitled, 1974, colored crayon on paper, Gift of John B. Davidson, 2021.109.1

World-renowned American sculptor Richard Hunt (b. 1935) has received commissions for more than 150 public works since the late 1960s. Although best known for his welded metal sculptures, he is also a prolific draftsman with drawings that include site sketches conceptualizing a work in a particular environment, studies of forms and spatial relationships, fanciful abstract compositions, and robust, large-scale "finished" drawings. The Chicago collector John B. Davidson has recently donated two drawings by Hunt to the National Gallery of Art: a large, undated sheet of exploratory studies and a finished drawing from 1974. The first offers wonderful insights into the artist’s ruminations on abstracted forms unconnected to a specific sculpture, while the latter is the first major independent drawing by Hunt to enter the National Gallery’s collection.

Hunt’s sculptural sensibilities are evident in the sense of depth in this drawing. The imposing, abstract form—hovering between biomorphic and architectural/mechanical—appears suspended in space, emphasized by the cropping of the forms at the edges of the sheet. Hunt frequently combines natural and industrial elements in his work, exploring the universal tensions between the sense of freedom associated with the natural world and the restrictive rigors of man-made environments. His work challenges the viewer to contemplate these incongruities. The extension of the "figure" into the viewer’s space seen in the finished drawing also reflects Hunt’s fascination with the possibilities of interaction and engagement of the viewer in his sculpted work.

Winfred Rembert, G.S.P. Reidsville

Winfred Rembert, G.S.P. Reidsville, 20132013

Winfred Rembert, G.S.P. Reidsville, 2013, dye on carved and tooled leather, Gift of Funds from Glenstone Foundation, 2022.37.1

Winfred Rembert's (1945–2021) deeply personal and visually striking art emerges from his experience growing up in the American South during the Jim Crow era and often celebrates his birthplace of Cuthbert, Georgia. The National Gallery of Art has acquired its first work by the artist, G.S.P. Reidsville (2013), a striking composition that sparks conversation about US history and engages with other works in the collection, such as paintings by African American artists Jacob Lawrence and Horace Pippin.

Rembert survived a near-lynching and seven years in the Georgia prison system, experiences that he documented in a recent memoir, Chasing Me to My Grave (Bloomsbury, 2021), which was awarded a posthumous Pulitzer Prize. After his release, and encouraged by his wife, Rembert used leatherworking techniques that he learned from a fellow prisoner to create autobiographical paintings with cut, tooled, and dyed leather. In G.S.P. Reidsville, Rembert illustrated his experience of working on a chain gang while serving time at the Georgia State Prison (G.S.P.) in Reidsville. The central panel depicts the chain gang working in front of the prison, while the enlarged surrounding figures collectively form an imposing frame. The pattern of black-and-white uniforms, black-and-orange soil, and red-and-brown sledgehammers creates a work of mesmerizing complexity. With its intricate division of space into numerous panels, the composition conveys to the viewer a sense of being trapped—much as the figures themselves are trapped.

Genesis Tramaine, Clinging unto the Lord

Genesis Tramaine, Clinging unto the Lord, 2021, acrylic, oil stick, oil pastel, Lawry’s Seasoned Salt, and the Holy Spirit on canvas, overall: 182.88 x 121.92 cm (72 x 48 in.), National Gallery of Art, Washington, Purchased as the Gift of Howard and Roberta Ahmanson, 2022.30.1

Genesis Tramaine (b. 1983) creates expressionist portraits of men and women that combine vigorous handling of materials with intuitive, spiritual inspiration. The National Gallery of Art has recently acquired its first painting by Tramaine, Clinging unto the Lord (2021). Blending a provocative use of color with an urban-inspired, mixed-media approach, she describes her practice as focused on the shape and definition of the "American Black Face" and as using exaggerated features to capture the spirited emotions of the untapped, underrepresented souls of Black people.

Enlivened by New York graffiti from the 1980s and imagined images of gospel hymns sung Sunday morning during church, Clinging unto the Lord is typical of her recent work: head-and-shoulder portraits based on individual sitters or biblical figures and painted in a trance-like frenzy that can be compared to speaking in tongues. Tramaine's Christian faith informs all aspects of her practice, from prayers said before, during, and after painting, to evangelical titles and inscriptions on the tacking margins of her canvases, to small "spirit guide" figures depicted within the larger work.

Rashid Johnson, The New Negro Escapist Social and Athletic Club (Emmett)

Rashid Johnson, The New Negro Escapist Social and Athletic Club (Emmett), 2008, printed 20222008, printed 2022

Rashid Johnson, The New Negro Escapist Social and Athletic Club (Emmett), 2008, printed 2022, chromogenic print, Gift of Funds from Ryan E. Lee and Lee Group Holdings (LGH), Heather and Jim Johnson Fund, Kend Family Fund, and Peter Edwards and Rose Gutfeld Fund, 2022.36.1

Rashid Johnson (b. 1977) is a highly celebrated contemporary artist who explores African American themes and issues of racial, cultural, and gender identity in a range of media. The National Gallery of Art has acquired its first photograph by Johnson, The New Negro Escapist Social and Athletic Club (Emmett) (2008, printed 2022), which depicts two portraits of one individual (one inverted left to right from the other).  

In 2008, inspired by Black middle-class clubs formed in the early 20th century to aid fellow African Americans as well as by Afrofuturist thinkers such as Sun Ra, Johnson invented a mystical secret society—The New Negro Escapist Social and Athletic Club. The name references the term "New Negro," coined by critic Alain Locke in 1925 to describe a rising generation of self-confident, assertive, and socially aware Black intellectuals. Johnson made a series of portraits from 2008 to 2009 that depicts the members of this fictional men's club.

This picture's title also refers to Emmett Till, the 14-year-old African American boy who was brutally murdered by white supremacists in Mississippi in 1955. The devastating photograph of Till's mangled body published in Jet magazine at the insistence of his mother may seem disconnected from Johnson's portrait of a well-dressed, well-groomed sitter. But this extraordinarily multilayered work offers yet another reference: the model's parted hair and goatee recall portraits of the abolitionist Frederick Douglass, reputedly the most photographed man of the 19th century.

Thirteen Works by M. C. Escher

The National Gallery of Art holds the preeminent public collection of works—31 drawings and 400 prints—outside Europe by M. C. Escher (1898–1972), the master of optical illusion. Thirteen drawings recently given by Michael Schiffman in honor of Rock J. Walker fill chronological gaps, add new subjects, and provide additional context for several of the National Gallery’s prints.

Among the works included in this recent gift are the following highlights: sketches of a nude woman that directly relate to Escher’s early woodcut Seated Female Nude (1921); a delicate watercolor of a spider in its web that is one of only two known designs the artist made for ceramic plates; and several drawings of landscapes and sites that date to Escher’s early travels in Italy—an experience that remained a primary source of his artistic inspiration. Demonstrating his growing fascination with mysterious and disorienting architectural environments, Madonna del Parto, Sutri (1927) portrays the enclosed remains of the colonnade of a Roman era Mithraeum in white chalk on black paper to enhance the cave-like atmosphere of the temple space. Other drawings include two sketches of a woman’s hands (c. 1930) very likely modeled by Escher’s wife Guilietta (Jetta) during the early days of their marriage; the humorous Il Diavolo di Ravello (1931), which shows the devil dressed as a cleric and introduces what would become a recurring devil motif; three design sketches that document Escher’s mathematical approach as he worked out the geometries underlying his most famous visual conundrums in the late 1930s and early 1940s; and Symmetry 131 (1967), comprising black and white flower-filled pentagons and numbering among the 137 fully developed periodic patterns that served as a critical resource for his best-known works.

Fifteen Works by Edvard Munch

The National Gallery of Art’s collection of prints by Edvard Munch (1863–1944), with numerous examples assembled by Sarah and Lionel Epstein, is the largest and finest gathering of the artist’s graphic work outside his native Norway. The Epstein Family Foundation, which has donated some 119 prints by Munch since 1990, has recently given 15 more. Among the superb works in the latest donation are impressions of some of the artist’s major color woodcuts: Anxiety (1896), Moonlight I-II (1896, printed 1913), and Melancholy (Woman on the Shore) (1898). While these prints hauntingly convey the emotional states of angst and alienation for which the artist is best known, several others represent his fixation on the complex dynamics of male-female relationships. Among the highlights in this group are exceptional early black-and-white impressions of Munch’s iconic lithographs Madonna (1895/1897–1898) and Vampire II (1896); In Man’s Brain (1897), a rare color woodcut printed in vibrant red ink that depicts a nude woman in a cloud-like form above a man’s head; as well as both the color woodcut (1899) and an etched version (1902) of Encounters in Space.

William Christenberry, Memory Form II

William Christenberry, Memory Form II, 1997-19981997-1998

William Christenberry, Memory Form II, 1997-1998, archival board, wood, encaustic, black paint, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Stephen Bennett Phillips in honor of Sandra Deane Christenberry, 2021.94.1

William Christenberry (1936–2016) is best known for his artistic exploration of place, in particular the Black Belt region of Alabama, where he spent his childhood in Hale County. Working in a wide variety of media, including painting, drawing, photography, sculpture, and assemblage, Christenberry focused on architecture, abandoned structures, and nature, and he studied the psychology and effects of place and memory. The National Gallery of Art has acquired the sculpture Memory Form II (1997–1998), a gift from Stephen Bennett Phillips in honor of Sandra Deane Christenberry, the artist’s widow.

In 1968 Christenberry moved to Washington, DC, where he quickly became a revered teacher and mentor at the Corcoran School of Art. However, his art remained focused on the landscape and built environment of Alabama, where he would return each summer to photograph shacks and stores and to collect signs and other artifacts that reflected the spirit of the place. His efforts were not simply nostalgic. Christenberry had an eye for decay and was deeply aware of the dark history of the region, with depictions of Ku Klux Klan hoods occasionally appearing in his work. Memory Form II is somewhat unusual in the artist’s oeuvre. Rather than a detailed, realistic model of a particular building, it is a poetic evocation of a general type of structure common in the South—the so-called dogtrot house with a central breezeway, which –Christenberry has reduced in this sculpture to a mysterious opening. As a result of the artist’s patient application of encaustic and paint to wood, the sculpture appears almost tomb-like, encased in time and memory.

Hendrick Cornelis Vroom, A Fleet at Sea

Hendrick Cornelisz Vroom, A Fleet at Sea, 16141614

Hendrick Cornelisz Vroom, A Fleet at Sea, 1614, oil on canvas, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Albert and Madzy Beveridge, 2021.97.1

The National Gallery of Art has acquired A Fleet at Sea (c. 1614), a major painting by the Haarlem artist Hendrick Cornelisz Vroom (d. 1640). The first Dutch painter to specialize in seascapes and detailed portraits of specific ships, Vroom paved the way for later 17th-century marine painters with his lively, colorful, and harmonious compositions. A Fleet at Sea was featured in the 2018 exhibition Water, Wind, and Waves: Marine Paintings from the Dutch Golden Age. The National Gallery is grateful to Albert Beveridge and his late wife, Madzy, for their generous gift that has brought this important painting into the nation’s collection.

A Fleet at Sea portrays a historic event that took place many years before Vroom painted its likeness. A stiff breeze propels the billowing sails of a Dutch fluyt ship from the mouth of the Maas River onto the choppy waves of the North Sea. On the right side of the painting, the skyline of Den Briel, with its squat church tower, identifies the exact location of the scene. Vroom has also included several details that suggest that the heavily armed cargo ship in the foreground may be the Roode Leeuw (Red Lion), which left its home port of Rotterdam in 1597 for a well-documented voyage to the distant shores of South America and the Caribbean. The vessel’s figurehead is a bright red lion, and the flag of the province Holland (also with a red lion) appears atop the main mast. The inclusion of the municipal arms of Rotterdam on the red, white, and blue Dutch flag on the stern pole may be a nod to the Roode Leeuw’s home port. Research continues into a possible alternative identification of the ship as the Rotterdam-based Leeuwinne (Lioness), which rammed and destroyed Spanish galleys in 1602, an event that Vroom depicted in a 1617 painting.

Vroom’s extensive output in paintings and prints had a direct impact on the enormous popularity of marine painting in the Netherlands throughout the 17th century. His own sea voyages during the 1580s gave him a profound understanding of the architecture and rigging of ships, and of their interaction with wind and water in a wide range of conditions. Vroom’s career coincided with the dawn of Dutch global commercial expansion, and he received numerous lucrative commissions from shipowners, captains, and shareholders of the Dutch East and West India Companies.

Alfred Stieglitz, Untitled (Helen Kastor Fleischmann)

Alfred Stieglitz, Untitled (Helen Kastor Fleischmann), c. 1917c. 1917

Alfred Stieglitz, Untitled (Helen Kastor Fleischmann), c. 1917, platinum/palladium print, image/sheet: 25.4 x 20.32 cm (10 x 8 in.), National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Clark Collection. 2021.87.5

Alfred Stieglitz (1864–1946) is celebrated for the pioneering exhibitions of modern European art that he presented at his gallery 291 in New York between 1907 and 1917 and for his support of American artists. Photography, his greatest passion, was not only the medium he used to express himself, but also the touchstone he employed to evaluate art. Donated by the Clark Collection to the National Gallery, Untitled (Helen Kastor Fleischmann), c. 1917, is a stunning platinum/ palladium print that helps to expand our understanding of the evolution of Stieglitz's art.

Through the exhibitions he organized, the periodicals he published, and the example of his own work, Stieglitz played a central role in the acceptance of photography as a mode of artistic expression. He also championed the work of numerous American photographers from Gertrude Käsebier, Clarence H. White, and Edward Steichen to Paul Strand and Ansel Adams.

At the time Stieglitz took this picture, Helen Kastor Fleischmann, a wealthy cutlery heiress, was married to Leon Fleischmann, a poet and one of the many artists, writers, musicians, and intellectuals who frequented Stieglitz’s gallery; she later married James Joyce’s son, Giorgio. Although Stieglitz described her in a 1917 letter to Georgia O’Keeffe as “pretty, vivacious,” he chose to focus on Fleischmann’s hands and legs rather than on her face. Most likely made in 1917, the picture is an early example of Stieglitz’s radical rethinking of the nature of a photographic portrait. Inspired by Auguste Rodin, Marius DeZayas, Francis Picabia, and other modernist artists, Stieglitz realized that a portrait need not capture a subject’s face but could allude to their character by portraying other elements of their body, or even abstract attributes. This was an idea he explored further in his portraits of O’Keeffe and others made from 1918 through the early 1920s.

After his death in 1946, his widow, O’Keeffe, assembled the foremost collection of his photographs and donated it to the National Gallery in 1949 and 1980. Numbering more than 1,600 pictures, the Key Set includes one print of every mounted photograph in Stieglitz’s possession at the time of his death. If there were different kinds of prints made from the same negative—platinum, palladium, gelatin silver, photogravure, or carbon—or different croppings, O’Keeffe put the finest examples of each into the Key Set.

The Key Set is an exceptional and unrivaled collection of Stieglitz’s art, but he did not always save a print of every photograph he made. In a few rare instances, important pictures have emerged that were not represented in the National Gallery’s collection, such as Untitled (Helen Kastor Fleischmann).

Thirteen Works by Robert Adams

For more than 50 years, Robert Adams (b. 1937) has made compelling and provocative photographs that show us the wonder and fragility of the American landscape, its inherent beauty, and the inadequacy of our response to it. Working in Colorado, California, and Oregon from the 1960s to the present, he has photographed a wide variety of subjects, including suburban sprawl, strip malls, highways, homes, and stores, as well as the land itself and the ravages we have inflicted on it. In honor of American Silence: The Photographs of Robert Adams (May 29–October 2, 2022), Robert and Kerstin Adams have given the National Gallery of Art 13 photographs, all of which are featured in the exhibition.

Highly influential, Adams’ pictures have inspired countless younger photographers to advocate for responsible environmental stewardship. Combining hope and despair, the photographs in this gift show his remarkable ability to capture both the devastation we have inflicted on the land and the persistent beauty that endures. The gift includes rare early works such as Adobe Chapel, Medina Plaza, along the Purgatory River, Colorado (1964), made only a year after Adams began to photograph. It also comprises such photographs as Basement for a Tract House, Colorado Springs (1969) and Outdoor Theater, North Edge of Denver (1973–1974), which are included in the artist’s seminal early books The New West: Landscapes along the Colorado Front Range (1974) and denver: A Photographic Survey of the Metropolitan Area (1977). Both volumes examined the new landscape of homes, highways, strip malls, and subdivisions that transformed the Southwest in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Robert and Kerstin Adams are also giving the National Gallery the only known prints of Along the Missouri River, North of Kansas City, Missouri (1979) and Interstate 25, Weld County, Colorado (1983), as well as pictures such as Clearcut, Clatsop County, Oregon (c. 2000) from his later study of the logging industry in the Pacific Northwest.

Three Works by Zarina

The National Gallery has acquired three works by Zarina (active internationally, 1937–2020), one of the most celebrated South Asian artists of the past century. Although printmaking was her primary medium, her interest in materials extended to the inventive manipulation of paper alone, as well as projects in metal, terracotta, and stone. Ideas concerning displacement, mobility, loss, and memory are found throughout Zarina’s work, as she explored her rootless existence and the fraught politics of migration and cultural dominance in the various locations where she lived. These are the first works by Zarina to enter the National Gallery’s collections and represent the range of her artistic practice.

The concept of home is a recurring theme in Zarina’s work. One of her seminal print projects, Homes I Made / A Life in Nine Lines (1997) features various floor plans of the many places she resided over the course of her itinerant life. The linear structure of the compositions is offset by subtle ink washes and textural effects that hint at the presence of inhabitants of these dwellings, suggesting scuff marks on floors and other signs of wear. Corners (1980) is a superb example of Zarina’s cast paper reliefs. Recalling the facade of a nondescript, brutalist style of urban apartment buildings with repeating rows of recessed rectilinear windows, this relief exemplifies both her minimalist sensibility as well as her interest in architecture. The empty, recessed areas of the relief may also be seen as an allusion to displacement. The prominent woodgrain pattern in the untitled print from 1968 demonstrates Zarina’s love of the inherent textures of her materials, interest in neutral and natural color palettes, and alludes to the woodblock prints that first inspired her to take up printmaking.

Orit Hofshi, Time...thou ceaseless lackey to eternity

Orit Hofshi, Orit Hofshi, Time…thou ceaseless lackey to eternity, 20172017

Orit Hofshi, Time…thou ceaseless lackey to eternity, 2017, woodcut and rubbing with colored pencil and grease pencil additions on four sheets of handmade Kozo and Abaca paper, Ailsa Mellon Bruce Fund, 2022.8.1.a-d

The daughter of Jewish refugees from Czechoslovakia, Israeli artist Orit Hofshi (b. 1959) has gained increasing attention in recent years for her compelling, monumental works combining woodcut printing, drawing, and at times incorporating the carved woodblocks themselves. The history and founding of Israel and its ongoing conflicts with Palestine have informed her evocative, often desolate landscapes that explore universal themes of migration, displacement, and the toll that human “civilization” has taken on the land. The National Gallery has acquired Time… thou ceaseless lackey to eternity (2018), one of her largest polyptychs. Considered by the artist to be one of her masterworks, this is the first work by Hofshi to enter the National Gallery collection.

Comprised of four panels, this landscape setting is littered with structural remains and rocky outcroppings, navigated by near life-size figures. Implied forces of human and natural destruction as well as evolutionary changes over time coexist in this haunting vista that alludes to the romantic sublime, underscored by disquiet in the lack of specificity of location and timeframe. The figures appear as wanderers or vagabonds, relatively calm, even stoic, and somewhat detached from their surroundings, as if taking stock of circumstances along a journey or in the aftermath of a catastrophic event. There is also an autobiographical element to this work: the synagogue in the far-left panel represents a temple that was destroyed in the anti-Semitic rioting in Czechoslovakia where her parents once lived. The self-portrait figure in the foreground confronts the viewer with Hofshi's forceful gaze, compelling us to share in her role as witness to the consequences when we lose sight of our shared humanity and respect for the natural world that sustains us.

The emotional tensions between figures and setting—aimlessness, resignation, resilience, introspection, and expectation—are heightened by Hofshi’s technique that can be described as expressionist, tempered by realist elements. Her vigorously gouged woodcut line lends an urgency to her forms. Her varied approach to transferring ink from the woodblock by printing, rubbing, and offsetting, adding drawn elements, combining, and reusing woodblocks, and delineating interlocking forms by color all play into the sense of alienation and displacement and complex relationships within and between humankind and the natural world. Hofshi writes: “The landscapes are typically proposed as places, occupied and unoccupied, touched, and untouched, rarely fully committed in a specific context. In such dramatic natural contexts, I find an emphasized sense of evolution, time, and struggles, not only as records of natural phenomenon, but also as reflections of human history.”

Nicole Eisenman, Beer Garden

Nicole Eisenman, Beer Garden, 2012–2017, etching, aquatint, and drypoint, printed chine collé on wove on Hahnemühle paper, image: 101.4 x 121.6 cm (39 15/16 x 47 7/8 in.), sheet: 112.8 x 131.7 cm (44 7/16 x 51 7/8 in.), National Gallery of Art, Washington, Ailsa Mellon Bruce Fund, 2022.9.1

Nicole Eisenman (b. 1965) is best known as a painter who skillfully combines art history, queer politics, and popular culture into engaging, often fantastical figurative subjects. In 2011 Eisenman set her paints aside to delve into a year completely focused on printmaking, producing over 60 prints in woodcut, lithography, etching, aquatint, and monotype. The National Gallery’s recent acquisition, Beer Garden (2012–2017)—at nearly 4 feet square—stands out as her most monumental print to date and took five years to complete. This is the first work by Eisenman in any medium to enter the collection.

In this work, the artist appears in a distorted self-portrait in a reflection at the bottom of the raised beer stein in the foreground—as both observer and participant among a host of revelers engaged in a range of social interaction and debauched behavior at this popular drinking spot in her Brooklyn neighborhood. The variously caricatured, abstracted, and contorted figures, and wanton atmosphere suggest sources extending from cartoons and comics to French and German late 19th- and early 20th-century depictions of café night life.

Daniel Lind-Ramos, Figura de Poder

Daniel Lind-Ramos, Figura de Poder (Power Figure), 2016–2020, mirrors, concrete blocks, cement bag, sledgehammer, construction stones bag, paint bucket, wood panels, palm tree trunk, burlap, leather, ropes, sequin, awning, plastic ropes, fabric, trumpet, pins, duct tape, maracas, sneaker, tambourine, working gloves, boxing gloves, acrylic, overall: 274.32 x 152.4 x 119.38 cm (108 x 60 x 47 in.), National Gallery of Art, Washington, New Century Fund, 2022.6.1, © Daniel Lind-Ramos

Daniel Lind-Ramos (b. 1953) is one of the foremost contemporary artists born and based in Puerto Rico. Raised by a family of artisans and initially trained as painter, he later began to work in assemblage in a way that resonates with the making-do and spiritual traditions of the African Diaspora and with everyday life in his hometown, Loíza. The National Gallery of Art has acquired its first work by Lind-Ramos, Figura de Poder (2016–2020).

Figura de Poder suggests multiple figures that represent power (poder), sound, and force, such as a carnival reveler, a protester, a musician, a construction worker or manual laborer, an animal, or an athlete. The sculpture features three horns that evoke a vejigante reveler, a central figure in the Festival de Santiago Apóstol celebrated in the days surrounding the Feast of Saint James on July 25, while the dominant red color is associated with Chango, the deity of iron and war that is linked to Saint Barbara. Strong musical elements are found throughout the work—a tambourine that doubles as a face, buckets that make up the central “body” of the figure, and a maraca held by one of the gloved hands in the center of the sculpture. They refer to carnival traditions, contemporary political protest, and African-derived music as a site of cultural resistance in the Americas. Other objects—the boxing glove and sneaker seen in the back of the sculpture—are in part autobiographical and suggest the ways in which sports figures like Muhammad Ali became powerful Black social and political forces. 

Lind-Ramos creates his assemblages from organic and found materials such as construction tarps, parts of palm tree trunks, and cinder blocks from Loíza, home to a historic Afro–Puerto Rican community and just east of the capital San Juan. His interest in these unconventional objects is also tied to his admiration of arte povera, the contemporary artistic movement that originated in Italy in the 1960s and relied on commonplace materials as a basis for artmaking. Drawing on music, sports, craft, and daily life, Lind-Ramos formed an arresting structure that evokes the indomitable spirit of Afro–Puerto Rican cultural practices and history.

Hank Willis Thomas, A Place to Call Home (Africa America Reflection)

Hank Willis Thomas, A Place to Call Home (Africa America Reflection), 2020, stainless steel with mirrored finish, overall: 203.2 × 167.64 cm (80 x 66 in.), National Gallery of Art, Washington, Firestone Contemporary Art Acquisition Fund, 2022.5.1 © Hank Willis Thomas. Courtesy of the Artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

Hank Willis Thomas (b. 1976) is a multidisciplinary artist who primarily works with themes related to identity, representation, mass media, and popular culture. The National Gallery has acquired his stainless-steel wall sculpture A Place to Call Home (Africa America Reflection) (2020), which draws a fictional map of an African American continent. It is the first sculpture by this celebrated artist to enter the collection.

Eight feet tall with a mirrored metal surface, A Place to Call Home outlines what appears to be the western hemisphere, but is actually North America nearly connected to Africa instead of South America. Maps, as this substitution implies, have often been used to represent the ideas and stories their makers want to tell rather than the actual topography. This map points to feelings of connection and detachment that many African Americans have toward Africa. As Thomas explains, a “mythical connection to Africa is embedded in your identity, but many people go to Africa looking for home and don’t find it because our roots are so diluted there. They also never felt at home in the U.S., where they were born. I wanted to make a place where African Americans come from.” And in reflecting all viewers, A Place to Call Home also creates opportunities for empathy across cultures.

Louise Nevelson, Untitled

Louise Nevelson, Untitled, c. 1975, wood painted black, left panel: 111.76 x 111.76 x 10.16 cm (44 x 44 x 4 in.), right panel: 111.76 x 111.76 x 13.97 cm (44 x 44 x 5 1/2 in.), National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Milly and Arne Glimcher, 2021.96.1.1

Sculptor Louise Nevelson (1899–1988), is known for her monumental wooden wall pieces and outdoor sculptures. The National Gallery of Art has recently been given Untitled (c. 1975), the first major relief by Nevelson to enter the collection, from Arne and Milly Glimcher, dedicated supporters of the artist.

A late work, Untitled resembles Nevelson’s classic, earlier work in that it consists largely of found pieces of black-painted wood that fit tightly within boxlike containers. Here, Nevelson incorporated large forms and open rhythms that contrast deliberately with the packed, labyrinthine quality visible in much of her other work. Her unique process transformed everyday materials into compositions that transcended space and altered the viewer’s perception. Dramatic rooms of monochromatic works placed on the floor and walls, and occasionally suspended from the ceiling, allowed the viewer to journey through Nevelson’s created worlds.

Born in Pereiaslav, in the Russian Empire (now Ukraine), Nevelson came to the United States in 1905 as part of a wave of Jewish emigration, settling with her family first in Maine, then moving to New York City in 1920, where she studied drama and art. By 1960, Nevelson had established herself firmly within the male-dominated circle of her abstract expressionist peers, and by 1970 she had become an iconic figure known for her sprawling environments and outdoor sculptures as well as her dramatic self-presentation. She received numerous recognitions and awards throughout her lifetime, as well as two significant commissions—the “Louise Nevelson Plaza” in Lower Manhattan and the “Nevelson Chapel” of the Good Shepherd at St. Peter’s Church in Midtown Manhattan.

Virginia Dwan Gift of Ad Reinhardt, Robert Rauschenberg, Jean Tinguely, Edward Kienholz, and Charles Ross

Ad Reinhardt, Ultimate Painting, 1963

Ad Reinhardt, Ultimate Painting, 1963, oil on canvas, Gift of Virginia Dwan, 2021.100.1

Robert Rauschenberg, Maquette for Robert Rauschenberg Exhibition at Dwan Gallery, 1962, collage of newspaper cut-out, envelope with telegram, offset, printing, paint, graphite, and tape on paper, overall: 50.8 x 43.18 cm (20 x 17 in.), National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Virginia Dwan, 2021.100.5

Robert Rauschenberg, Untitled (For Virginia with Hook), 1965, printed paper, staples, Plexiglas, screws, washers, and hook, overall: 23.5 x 25.4 cm (9 1/4 x 10 in.), National Gallery of Art,  Washington, Gift of Virginia Dwan, 2021.100.6

Jean Tinguely, Odessa, 1963

Jean Tinguely, Odessa, 1963, scrap, forged iron, wheel, electronic motor, and black paint, Gift of Virginia Dwan, 2021.100.4

Edward Kienholz, Portrait of Virginia, 1963

Edward Kienholz, Portrait of Virginia, 1963, metal, wood, glass, bottle, lightbulb, battery, plaster, and polyester resin, Gift of Virginia Dwan, 2021.100.2

Charles Ross, Collapsing Cube, 1966, Plexiglas and fluid, 5 units, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Virginia Dwan, 2021.100.3

One of the most important art dealers of the late 20th century, Virginia Dwan (b. 1931) presented seminal exhibitions of such movements as pop art, nouveau réalisme, minimal art, conceptual art, and land art during the storied 11-year run of her galleries in Los Angeles and New York. Dwan’s most recent gifts to the National Gallery from her personal collection include a major painting by Ad Reinhardt (1913–1967), two collages by Robert Rauschenberg (1925–2008), and sculptures by Jean Tinguely (1925–1991), Edward Kienholz (1927–1994), and Charles Ross (b. 1937). They join Dwan’s numerous other gifts as part of a promised donation of some 250 works, including paintings, sculptures, photographs, drawings, films, and artists’ books. Many of these works were featured in the 2016–2017 National Gallery exhibition Los Angeles to New York: Dwan Gallery, 1959–1971, which traveled to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 2017.

The focus of two solo exhibitions at the Los Angeles Dwan Gallery in 1961 and 1963, Reinhardt was also included in the minimalist group show Ten at the New York gallery in 1966. The black square of Reinhardt’s Ultimate Painting (1963) was the artist’s preferred shape for his late works and his most iconic format.

Rauschenberg made Maquette for Robert Rauschenberg Exhibition at Dwan Gallery (1962) in advance of his show at the Los Angeles Dwan Gallery in 1962. Containing a crossword puzzle revealing the gallery’s address and the show’s opening date, a Western Union envelope and telegram addressed to the artist, and transfer drawings rubbed onto the paper sheet, the collage served as the exhibition announcement. A second work, Untitled—(For Virginia with Hook) (1965), is built up from torn fragments of printed and colored papers that the artist glued and stapled to a paper support. Pressed behind Plexiglas, the arrangement is held together by screws and grommets and is meant to be hung from a metal hook. This gift brings two valuable collages produced at the height of Rauschenberg’s career to the nation’s collection.

Tinguely’s Odessa (1963) was included in Dwan’s 1963 exhibition of the Swiss artist’s mechanical sculptures. Composed of three rotating wheel hubs bound to one another by their original rubber straps, the sculpture is activated by an electric foot pedal. A superb example of kinetic art, Odessa is the first sculpture by Tinguely to enter the National Gallery collection.

Kienholz’s assemblage Portrait of Virginia (1963) combines fragments of an old table, a discarded box, scraps of metal, and other elements to evoke Dwan. A crystal vase turned upside-down serves as her head. While the National Gallery owns several of Kienholz’s editioned works produced at Gemini G.E.L. in collaboration with Nancy Reddin Kienholz, Portrait of Virginia is the museum’s first unique assemblage, the medium for which the artist is best known.

Ross’s Collapsing Cube (1966) is the second sculpture by the artist to enter the collection, joining Hanging Islands (1966/2015) given by Dwan in 2016. The five Plexiglas elements are arranged side by side to narrate the “collapse” of a cube into progressively more complex polygons. The emblematic geometric form, the cube, becomes increasingly difficult to perceive.

Heather Podesta Gift of Thomas Demand, Vik Muniz, and Frank Thiel

Thomas Demand, Junior Suite, 2012

Thomas Demand, Junior Suite, 2012, chromogenic print, Gift of the Heather Podesta Collection, 2021.99.1

Vik Muniz, Wanderer Above The Sea of  Ashes, 1999

Vik Muniz, Wanderer Above The Sea of Ashes, 1999, silver dye bleach print, Gift of the Heather Podesta Collection, 2021.99.2

Frank Thiel, Perito Moreno #11, 2012–2013

Frank Thiel, Perito Moreno #11, 2012–2013, chromogenic print, Gift of the Heather Podesta Collection, 2021.99.3

Frank Thiel, Stadt 10/06A (Berlin), 2001

Frank Thiel, Stadt 10/06A (Berlin), 2001, chromogenic print, Gift of the Heather Podesta Collection, 2021.99.4

A prominent collector of contemporary art, Heather Podesta has made important contributions to the collection of the National Gallery of Art over the years. Her most recent donation of outstanding photographs by Thomas Demand (b. 1964), Vik Muniz (b. 1961), and Frank Thiel (b. 1966) significantly deepens the museum’s holdings of photographs by these prolific artists.

Demand’s provocative photograph Junior Suite (2012) comments on the irreverent nature of tabloid photography and immense public interest in celebrity tragedy. Responding to the media frenzy surrounding the death of Whitney Houston in 2012, Demand was shocked by the publication of one picture that depicted the room service table where Houston had been eating moments before she died. Demand recreated the scene using colored paper, then photographed the highly crafted fabrication before destroying it. Junior Suite disrupts the illusion of intimacy created by the tabloid image, often referred to as Houston’s “last supper,” and instead reveals the morbid invasion of privacy it signifies.

Muniz’s Wanderer Above the Sea of Ashes (1999) comments on Casper David Friedrich’s iconic 1818 painting of a man reflecting on a sublime wilderness. Muniz updates the 19th-century rendering, where a mysterious fog both obscures and reveals the landscape, to a contemporary one constructed entirely from ash and discarded cigarette butts. The conceptual difference between Friedrich’s highly recognizable romantic image and the detritus of Muniz’s Wanderer creates a fascinating dialogue about individual experience, health, and the environment.

Thiel has photographed the transformation of a reunified Berlin for over two decades. His large-scale color print Stadt 10/06A (Berlin) (2001) documents a city reborn after the tumultuous events of the 20th century and reveals an unfolding architectural history through the creation of new patterns of urban existence. Thiel is also interested in the overwhelming power of glacial configurations. His monumental photograph Perito Moreno #11 (2012–2013), depicting Patagonia’s Perito Moreno Glacier, is a haunting meditation on the strength and majesty, and fragility and endangerment, of the natural world.

Four Works from Melvin Edward ’s Lynch Fragments Series Acquired

Melvin Edwards, For Emilio Cruz, 2005, welded steel, overall: 36.2 x 43.82 x 15.24 cm (14 1/4 x 17 1/4 x 6 in.), National Gallery of Art, Washington, Patrons' Permanent Fund, 2022.3.3, Courtesy Alexander Gray Associates, New York; Stephen Friedman Gallery, London © Melvin Edwards / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Melvin Edwards, Siempre Gilberto de la Nuez, 1994, welded steel, overall: 34.29 x 31.75 x 17.78 cm (13 1/2 x 12 1/2 x 7 in.), National Gallery of Art, Washington, Patrons' Permanent Fund, 2022.3.1, Courtesy Alexander Gray Associates, New York; Stephen Friedman Gallery, London © Melvin Edwards / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Melvin Edwards, All Most, 1985, welded steel, overall: 26.99 x 18.1 x 24.77 cm (10 5/8 x 7 1/8 x 9 3/4 in.), National Gallery of Art, Washington, Patrons' Permanent Fund, 2022.3.2, Courtesy Alexander Gray Associates, New York; Stephen Friedman Gallery, London © Melvin Edwards / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Melvin Edwards, Tayali Ever Ready (Homage to Henry Tayali), 1981/1986/1988, welded steel, overall: 22.23 x 29.21 x 27.94 cm (8 3/4 x 11 1/2 x 11 in.), National Gallery of Art, Washington, Patrons' Permanent Fund, 2022.3.4, Courtesy Alexander Gray Associates, New York; Stephen Friedman Gallery, London © Melvin Edwards / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Recognized as a pioneer in the history of contemporary American sculpture, Melvin Edwards (b. 1937) draws inspiration from African metalworking traditions, American racial histories, and visual languages of modernism, as well as from his own personal experiences and relationships. The National Gallery of Art has acquired four works from Lynch Fragments, Edwards’s most extensive and celebrated series that responds to legacies of race, labor, and oppression.

Originally inspired by police killings of Black citizens and other forms of brutality during the civil rights era, Edwards’s Lynch Fragments are modestly sized wall reliefs made from found metal objects, such as chains, locks, knives, tool parts, and other detritus that the artist welded together into abstract forms. The series has three distinct periods: the early 1960s that depicted Edwards’s response to racial violence in the United States; his activism in the wake of the Vietnam War during the early 1970s; and from 1978 to the present, when he began to pay homage to significant individuals in his life—usually friends, collaborators, and personal heroes—and to explore ideas of nostalgia and investigate African culture.

The twisted steel and chain of All Most (1985) recall histories of labor and slavery as the work simultaneously evokes Edwards’s own past in both rural and industrialized contexts in the South. A large trowel juts out from Tayali Ever Ready (1981–1986/1988) to pay tribute to Zambia’s first modern sculptor, Henry Tayali. Siempre Gilberto de la Nuez (1994) honors the Cuban painter and friend of Edwards with chains, blades, and a cross formed by two threaded rods. For Emilio Cruz (2005) similarly is a memorial to a friend and artist as well as an example of the Discs, a major development in the Lynch Fragment series, in which Edwards adheres welded compositions to the center of metal circles. 

Born in Houston, Texas, Edwards began his artistic career at USC, where he met and was mentored by the Hungarian painter Francis de Erdely. In 1965 the Santa Barbara Museum of Art organized his first solo exhibition, which launched his professional career. Edwards moved to New York City in 1967. Shortly after his arrival, his work was exhibited at The Studio Museum in Harlem. In 1970 he became the first African American sculptor to have a solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Edwards is represented also by two works on paper in the National Gallery’s collection.

Betye Saar, The Trickster

Betye Saar, The Trickster, 1994, mixed media assemblage, overall: 223.52 x 71.12 x 33.02 cm (88 x 28 x 13 in.), National Gallery of Art, Washington, Purchased as the Gift of Sharon Percy Rockefeller and Senator John Davison Rockefeller, 2021.85.1, Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects Los Angeles, California; Photo Alan Shaffer

A pioneer of second-wave feminist and post­war Black nationalist aesthetics, Betye Saar’s (b. 1926) practice examines African American identity, spirituality, and cross-cultural connectedness. The Trickster (1994), recently acquired by the National Gallery of Art, reflects Saar’s continued introspection, her assertion of the aesthetic and conceptual power of African cultural forms, and the belief that art can be made from anything. This is her first assemblage to enter the National Gallery’s collection where it joins one print and two mixed media works by her.

Made from a seven-foot-tall antique heater adorned with a necklace of bells, chains, and vintage keys, The Trickster depicts Eshu, the trickster god of the Yoruba people that protects devotees while engaging in mischief. Saar has represented the trickster figure throughout her career, beginning in the early 1970s with hanging leather pieces. This totemic variation represents not only the enduring significance of the figure for Saar, but also demonstrates her command of her materials on a monumental scale.

Since 1969 Saar has produced potent, evocative assemblage sculptures that explore themes of race, gender, ancestry, and spirituality. Her work is part of a storied tradition of artists working with found objects in Southern California and aligned with multiple art historical movements, including Black Arts, feminist art, and Neo-Dada, while remaining a reflection of her personal history and singular view. Saar’s assemblage practice began with the reappropriation of racist memorabilia she encountered at flea markets and yard sales, turning hurtful imagery into symbols of empowerment, most notably in the assemblage The Liberation of Aunt Jemima (1972). The collections of African and Oceanic art at the Field Museum in Chicago later sparked her interest in ancestral arts, ritual objects, and spiritual power. Saar’s symbolically rich body of work has evolved over time to demonstrate the various cultural, political, and technological contexts in which it exists.

Carmen Herrera, Untitled and Untitled Estructura (Yellow)

2 green triangles 1 inverted and the other right side up with points touching in the middle forming an hourglass shape on a white background

Carmen Herrera, Untitled, 2013, acrylic on canvas, 182.9 x 91.4 cm (72 x 36 in.), National Gallery of Art, Washington, Purchased as the Gift of Glenstone Foundation and David M. Rubenstein, © Carmen Herrera; Courtesy Lisson Gallery

2 yellow rectangles next to each other with a white gap and background. The top of the left is coming off the white background and casting a shadow and the bottom of the right is doing the same.

Carmen Herrera, Untitled Estructura (Yellow), 1966/2016, acrylic and aluminum, 152.4 x 111.8 x 12.7 cm (60 x 44 x 5 in.), National Gallery of Art, Washington, Purchased as the Gift of Glenstone Foundation and David M. Rubenstein, © Carmen Herrera; Courtesy Lisson Gallery

Carmen Herrera (1915–2022, Havana) was one of the leading practitioners of abstract art who emerged during the second half of the 20th century. Largely ignored for most of her life, Herrera is now widely recognized. Associated with non-representational, concrete abstraction in Europe, the United States, and Latin America, Herrera’s art contributed to the cross-pollination of modernist ideas. Combining crisp contours with contrasting chromatic planes, Herrera’s works create movement, rhythm, and spatial tension across their surfaces. The National Gallery of Art has just acquired Herrera’s painting Untitled (2013) and her sculptural relief Untitled Estructura (Yellow) (1966/2016). The works are the first by the artist to enter the National Gallery’s collection.

“The National Gallery is honored to acquire two works by the renowned abstract artist Carmen Herrera, including Untitled, among the last of her signature green-and-white paintings, and one of her painted sculptures known as Estructuras (Structures),” said James Meyer, curator of modern art at the National Gallery of Art. “We are particularly grateful to have acquired these works before Herrera's passing. The acquisition gave the artist great satisfaction late in her extraordinary career.”

Untitled, in Herrera’s distinctive green-and-white color palette, recalls her series Blanco y Verde (1959–1971), 15 earlier works that combine rectangular supports with triangular shapes in these hues. Painting works in green and white is “like saying yes and no,” Herrera once said. This combination of value and color creates intense visual effects that challenge the viewer’s perception: in Untitled, space appears both illusionistic and flat, receding and coming forward simultaneously. Herrera made Untitled at the age of 98, and it was the last green-and-white work in her possession.  

Untitled Estructura (Yellow) is one of several sculptural structures that Herrera conceived during the mid-1960s. It consists of two identical, triangular wedges hung opposite each other, with a narrow slice of wall visible between the inverted forms. The Estructuras allowed Herrera to push the boundaries of painting as a medium by painting the frames and edges of her canvases—a feature integral to the viewer’s perception of the work. Lacking the resources to produce sculpture, Herrera instead began making wall reliefs in painted wood in 1971. Owing to her success later in life, she was able to realize the Estructuras in wood and, eventually, painted aluminum.

The youngest of several children of a newspaper editor and journalist, Herrera studied architecture and art at the Universidad de La Habana before moving to New York in 1939 with her American-born husband, Jesse Loewenthal. In New York, Herrera developed her artistic skills at the Art Students League and in the studios of painters Samuel Brecher and Jon Corbino. In 1948 the couple moved to Paris, where Herrera encountered many of the leading artists and writers of the period and emerged as an abstract painter, exhibiting her work at the prestigious Salon des Réalités Nouvelles annually until 1953.

Returning to New York in 1954, Herrera worked continuously over the next several decades, refining and simplifying the formats of her painting. In contrast to contemporaries such as Ellsworth Kelly and Leon Polk Smith, Herrera, a woman of Cuban background, was unable to sell her work. She was offered her first retrospective at New York’s Alternative Museum in 1985. The turning point of her career came in 2004–2005, when her work was featured in well-received shows at Latincollector in New York and her painting Untitled (1952) was acquired by the Museum of Modern Art. A retrospective exhibition, Carmen Herrera: Lines of Sight, was held during her centenary at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 2016.

Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Eko Skyscraper

Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Eko Skyscraper, 2019, acrylic and colored pencil on panel, overall: 61 x 50.8 cm (24 x 20 in.), National Gallery of Art, Washington, Purchased with support from the Ford Foundation, © Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Courtesy the artist, Victoria Miro, and David Zwirner

The National Gallery of Art has acquired Eko Skyscraper (2019) by Njideka Akunyili Crosby (b. 1983), the first work by this celebrated artist to enter the National Gallery’s collection.

Eko Skyscraper depicts a young Yoruba woman in front of a lush natural backdrop. The painting’s title holds keys to understanding the work, and the manner of its making: “Eko” refers to Lagos, the Nigerian city where the artist attended middle school, while “skyscraper” alludes to the figure’s threaded, structured hair style featured in a 1967 photograph taken in Kisangani, Congo, by Eliot Elis­­ofon, a documentary photographer. In the painting, Akunyili Crosby reversed the image in Elisofon’s photograph, amplified the sitter’s outward gaze, added a new backdrop, and rendered the picture in warm gradients of orange. Unlike traditional portraits or documentary photographs where subjects pose or are recorded live, Akunyili Crosby builds her imagery at a remove across place and time. In addition to various archives, the artist sources the images for her African and African diasporic subjects from a mix of her own photographs, magazines, and online resources, all of which combine to reflect the experience and consciousness of an artist who emigrated to the United States from her native Nigeria.

David C. Driskell, Current Forms: Yoruba Circle

David C. Driskell, Current Forms: Yoruba Circle, 1969, acrylic on canvas, overall: 112.4 x 86.36 cm (44 1/4 x 34 in.), National Gallery of Art, Washington, Purchased with support from the Ford Foundation, Estate of David C. Driskell. Courtesy DC Moore Gallery, NY

David C. Driskell (1931–2020) was an accomplished artist, celebrated curator, and one of the world’s leading authorities on the history of African American art. The National Gallery of Art has acquired its first painting by Driskell, Current Forms: Yoruba Circle (1969), which was inspired by the West African aesthetic and religious traditions that Driskell immersed himself in during travels to Senegal, Ivory Coast, Ghana, and Nigeria beginning in 1969.

Current Forms: Yoruba Circle features the symbol of Shango, the orisha (deity) of fire, thunder, and justice. Shango was revered among communities of enslaved people in the Caribbean and the Americas and is still venerated by many from across the African Diaspora. In this painting, Shango’s circular head dominates the canvas, while the figure’s lower half contains calligraphic swirls and shapes evocative of Yoruba masks and motifs. Vibrant fields of pinks and blues frame and segment the figure of Shango, and the surface is animated by active strokes and splashes of purple, orange, and blue paint. Driskell merges color field and action painting with West African symbolism in a bold, compelling image that exemplifies his signature style.

Driskell had deep ties to the Washington, DC, area. He received his BA in art from Howard University in 1955 and an MFA from the Catholic University of America in 1962. He taught and chaired the art department at Howard University (1962–1966) and the department of art at the University of Maryland, College Park (1976­­–1998), which established the David C. Driskell Center for the Study of Visual Arts and Culture of African Americans and the African Diaspora in 2001.

Zanele Muholi, Ntozakhe II, (Parktown)

Zanele Muholi, Ntozakhe II, (Parktown), 2016, photographic wall mural from digital files, sheet: 355.6 x 254 cm (140 x 100 in.), National Gallery of Art, Washington, Alfred H. Moses and Fern M. Schad Fund, 2021.88.1, © Zanele Muholi. Courtesy of the artist, Yancey Richardson, New York, and Stevenson Cape Town/Johannesburg

Zanele Muholi (b. 1972, Umlazi, South Africa) is a celebrated self-described visual activist who has in the last two decades documented Black gay, lesbian, transgender, and intersex people in South Africa. The National Gallery of Art has acquired Muholi’s Ntozakhe II, (Parktown) (2016) from the series titled Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness (2012–present), in which the artist (who uses the pronouns they and their) turns the camera on themself to reclaim their blackness.

Drawing on the conventions of traditional portraits, fashion photographs, and ethnographic images, Muholi in Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness adorns themself with a variety of everyday objects—clothespins, scrubbing pads, latex gloves—to allude to their personal past, South Africa’s fraught history, and urgent global concerns, as well as sexual politics and cultural violence. By digitally darkening their skin and brightening the whites of their eyes, Muholi intensifies their own blackness to make these pictures call into question notions of beauty and pride. “I wanted to use my face so that people will always remember just how important our Black faces are, when confronted by them.” Echoing the words of the celebrated African American photographer Gordon Parks, Muholi asserts that they want to “teach people about our history, to rethink what history is all about, to reclaim it for ourselves, to encourage people to use artistic tools such as cameras as weapons to fight back.” Muholi further intensifies the confrontational nature of their photographs by making very large prints, often more than 11 feet high.

Ntozakhe II, (Parktown) is a powerful self-portrait in which the artist employs their body to confront “the politics of race and pigment.” The artist posed in a loose-fitting toga-like garment with a crown of hair donuts. Those props, along with the slight tilt of the chin, upturned gaze, and elongated neck, make Muholi look like the Statue of Liberty. Noting that the statue is green, Muholi wondered why it could not also be Black: “In some ways, yes, Ntozakhe is based on the Statue of Liberty, representing the idea of freedom—the freedom all women should have—as well as pride: pride in who we are as Black, female-bodied beings. But what kind of freedom are we talking about? What is the color of the Statue of Liberty? What race is the figure monumentalized as Lady Liberty?”

James Luna, The Artifact Piece (1987/1990) and Take A Picture with a Real Indian (1991/2001/2010)

Left: James Luna (Luiseño, Puyukitchum, Ipi, and Mexican American, 1950–2018) performing The Artifact Piece in 1987 at the San Diego Museum of Man. Courtesy of the James Luna Estate, and Garth Greenan Gallery

Right: James Luna (Luiseño, Puyukitchum, Ipi, and Mexican American, 1950–2018) performing Take A Picture with a Real Indian in 1991 at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Courtesy of the James Luna Estate, and Garth Greenan Gallery

One of the best-known Native American artists, James Luna (Luiseño, Puyukitchum, Ipai, and Mexican, 1950–2018) used his body in performances, installations, and photographs to question the fetishization, museological display, and commodification of Native Americans. The National Gallery of Art has acquired two of Luna’s historic multipart works: The Artifact Piece (1987/1990) and Take a Picture with a Real Indian (1991/2001/2010). These are significant additions to the permanent collection by this influential Native American artist.

The Artifact Piece (1987/1990) was first presented at the San Diego Museum of Man and later at the Studio Museum in Harlem as part of the landmark Decade Show. The work comprises two vitrines, one with text panels perched on a bed of sand where Luna originally lay for short intervals wearing a breechcloth, and the other filled with some of Luna’s personal effects, including his college diploma, favorite music, and family photos. The Artifact Piece resonated broadly in the 1980s and has grown in influence among artists and scholars ever since. In 2020 the Luna Estate collaborated with the Garth Greenan Gallery to plan for the posthumous presentation of The Artifact Piece, in which a surrogate will leave an impression in the sand, signaling the absence of the artist.

Take a Picture with a Real Indian (1991/2001/2010) was first presented at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1991 and later reprised in 2001 in Salina, Kansas, and in 2010 on Columbus Day (now Indigenous Peoples’ Day) outside Washington, DC’s Union Station. It is Luna’s most interactive work, in which individuals originally posed with Luna himself or with three life-size cutouts of the artist, two wearing varieties of traditional Native dress and the third in chinos and a polo shirt. In keeping with the Luna Estate’s wishes, the “standees” will represent the artist posthumously in future installations. When someone interacts with this work, two Polaroid photographs are taken: one for the participant to take home and one that remains with the work as a record of the performance. Luna found he attracted more participants while in Native dress than in street clothes, demonstrating the popularity of stereotypical Native American identity and its construct as a tourist attraction.

Past Highlights