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Self/Image: Portraiture from Copley to Close

August 30 - December 31, 2006


Reynolda House Museum of American Art opens a new exhibition, Self/Image: Portraiture from Copley to Close on August 30, on view through December 31, 2006. The exhibition will feature key selected works from significant collections as well as masterpieces from the Reynolda House collection. Artists represented include Jeremiah Thëus, Joseph Blackburn, John Singleton Copley, Gilbert Stuart, Thomas Eakins, John Singer Sargent, Charles Willson Peale, Chuck Close, and Nam June Paik. This exhibition will also feature special educational components geared towards children, including an activity space and descriptive labels.

The portrait occupies a singular place in the history of American art. As a genre, these representations of self are layered visual accounts of actuality, desire, and projection. Historical portraits -- too often taken at face value -- are granted a rare authority, a free pass to authenticity. The first lady or military hero must have looked like that. But portraits are negotiations. They are complex bargains between artist, sitter, and society (was the governor really that tall?). The desire to be recognized as an individual produces its own visual language of sly grins that push back upon convention.

Self/Image explores the development of American portraiture from the mid-eighteenth century to the present day. Particular attention is paid to watershed moments of cultural change, such as when British subjects became American citizens and when women broke out of hermetic interiors and took a place in public life for the first time. Another emphasis will be on images of the artist.

While Self/Image is on view at Reynolda House, there will be a series of related events beginning with the Grand Opening Party Wednesday, August 30 from 7 to 10 p.m. The party is free to members and students, fee to nonmembers. There will be live music, admission to the entire museum, and a cash bar.

Self/Image Community Day, Sunday, October 1, 2 ­ 4 p.m. is free and open to the public, with live music, refreshments, a caricature artist, art activities for children, and free admission to the museum.

A series of lectures by noted art historians, authors, and artists will cover such topics as artists Thomas Eakins and Fairfield Porter, and the art of portraiture. Speakers include Henry Adams, Justin Spring, and David Faber. New York Times editor Verlyn Klinkenborg will talk about his new book, Timothy: or, Notes of an Abject Reptile.

Gallery Talks, held on Tuesdays from 5:30­6:30 p.m., feature a variety of experts who talk about specific aspects of the exhibition and the art of portraiture. The talks are informal and audience participation is encouraged. Fee, and cash bar reception follows. Speakers include:

Photographer Susan Mullally is a visiting professor at DePauw University in Indiana and her Hope and Dignity Series is located at Guilford College. Based on the artist's collaboration with Emily Herring Wilson and initially funded and organized by The National Endowment for the Humanities, this exhibition traveled throughout North Carolina and was exhibited at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. During her September 5 gallery talk, Mullally will discuss her portraits of artists made during their visits to Reynolda House, including Romare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence, Chuck Close, Alan Shields, Philip Pearlstein, and Gregory Gillespie.

On September 12 Wake Forest University Professor of English Herman Rapaport, critic and philosopher, will discuss the realism in the work of Gerhard Richter and artist Chuck Close, whose work features prominently in the exhibition. Dr. Rapaport's many publications include Later Derrida, The Theory Mess, Is There Truth in Art?, Between the Sign and the Gaze, Heidegger and Derrida, and Milton and the Postmodern, in addition to the essays he has published on artist Gerhard Richter and American art of the 1960s.

Concerts offer another way to consider the art of portraiture. Musical interpretations will include Portraits in Jazz, by Four for One on Saturday, September 9 at 8 p.m.; Since We Met: A Jazz Portrait of Bill Evans performed by the Jazz Strings Project on Friday, November 3 at 8 p.m.; and a Piano Recital by John McKay on Saturday, November 11 at 8 p.m.

Theater will include two performances by actress Robin Voiers. She will portray poet Emily Dickenson in The Belle of Amherst on Friday, September 15 at 8 p.m. and modern dance pioneer Isadora Duncan in Isadora on Friday, September 22 at 8 p.m.

Film Portraits by the Assegai Short Film Group will be shown on Tuesday, October 10 at 7 p.m. Assegai Short Film Group is a screenwriter-based film collective where the camera is the extension of the pen. This collection of shorts, directed by Nathan Ross Freeman and Sharon Agnew, offers character-based, "slice-of-life" portraits. The central figure in each film is caught in the midst of a dramatic and humorous personal struggle, attempting to resolve matters of the heart.


(above: Gilbert Stuart, Mrs.Harrison Gray Otis (Sally Foster), 1809, oil on mahogany panel, 32 x 26 inches, Original purchase fund from the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation, Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, ARCA Foundation, and Anne Cannon Forsyth. 1967.2.3)


(above: Sargent - credits pending)


(above: Harrison Gray Otis portrait - credits pending)

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