WASHINGTON – When abstract expressionism was all the rage in American art in the mid-20th century, many artists thought the art of painting portraits was dead.
Artist Chuck Close went so far as to say that making a portrait was “the dumbest, most moribund, out-of-date and shopworn of possible things you could do.” But at the same time, Close and other artists from the era began reinventing the tradition of portraits by making the images more abstract.
A new exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery explores how Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, Roy Lichtenstein, Elaine de Kooning and others pushed the boundaries of portraiture between 1945 and 1975. “Face Value: Portraiture in the Age of Abstraction” is a different kind of show for the museum, with quirky and unexpected ways to represent people through paintings, drawings, prints and sculpture.
Familiar subjects include Marilyn Monroe, Jack Kerouac, Jackie Kennedy and Warhol. But Willem de