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Exhibition explores the relationship artists have with their own image
Daniela Comani, A Happy Marriage #50, 2009, courtesy of Charlie James Gallery, Los Angeles.

NEW YORK, NY.- The National Academy presents Self: Portraits of Artists in Their Absence, January 29-May 2, 2015. The exhibition is an exploration of the relationship artists have with their own image, and how prevailing cultural norms have influenced and transformed the conventions of self-representation over time. The 145 works in Self call on the Academy’s extensive and significant collection of artist portraits, including self-portraits by Asher B. Durand, Thomas Eakins, Cecilia Beaux, George Grosz, Will Barnet, Andrew Wyeth, Jacob Lawrence, Wayne Thiebaud, Robert Rauschenberg and Howardena Pindell, among others, as well as works on loan by such artists as Marcel Duchamp, Piero Manzoni, Meret Oppenheim, Hannah Wilke, Bruce Nauman, Ana Mendieta, Vivian Meier, Shirin Neshat, Cindy Sherman, Catherine Opie and Ai Weiwei, among others. The exhibition was organized by Maurizio Pellegrin, Creative Director; Diana Thompson, Curator of the Collection; and Filippo Fossati, Curator at Large.

Self: Portraits of Artists in Their Absence offers a glimpse into the process of self-representation and presents a progression of artistic conventions in a range of media. The exhibition traces an historical overview of selfportraits over the last two centuries, at a time when society seems obsessed with self-image making. The exhibit encompasses works of artists from 35 countries, including China, Iran, Nigeria and Pakistan.

Self-portraits are part of a longstanding artistic tradition; some historians trace its origins as far back as the 14th century BC. Self-portraiture gained particular interest and attention during the Middle Ages, later flourishing as a widely popular genre during the Renaissance, and has continued to change in style, content and approach ever since. The self-portrait is not only an opportunity to observe and study an artist’s chosen presentation to the world, but an occasion to examine artists’ inner thoughts, personality, identities and emotions as well.

“It is both important and timely for the National Academy to present this survey of transformations in selfportraiture,” said Carmine Branagan, Director of the National Academy Museum & School. “Since its founding in 1825, the Academy’s esteemed artist and architect members have been contributing works to the permanent collection, and many of these works are portraits, often gifted at the time of induction. As a result, the Academy holds one of the largest collections of artist portraits in the country.”

Self: Portraits of Artists in Their Absence offers visitors a means to add their self-portrait to the exhibition, via an antique photo booth recalling boardwalk weekends of the past, which also enables the public to upload their self-images to social media platforms and the National Academy Instagram page. These public selfportraits will also be displayed as part of the exhibition, rotating on a video monitor.

During the run of the exhibition, three visitors will be selected through a drawing to have their portrait rendered by students of the National Academy School.

Concurrent with Self, the second edition of the National Academy’s Curatorial Lab will launch REVEALing Architecture, featuring the works of architectural firm FXFowle and painter Richard Haas, highlighting their creative processes.

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