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Sunday, March 13, 2016

Last day for modern photo show at National Gallery of Art


Dorothea Lange, General Strike, San Francisco, 1934, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

For children of the 1960s who grew up amidst Watergate and President Richard M. Nixon (1913-1994), it is hard to leave the full wall of photographs taken in 1976 by Richard Avedon (1923-2004) which are part of the exhibition closing today at the National Gallery of Art.


With a few exceptions, all the major era players hanging on the Watergate Wall are dead.

President Nixon's secretary, famous for "erasing" several minutes of critical audio tape, Rose Mary Woods (1917-2005) is there in a tight-fitting frock who looks like she's been stuffed in a can, and beside her is the rumored-to-be-and-later-confirmed, "Deep Throat," Mark Felt, the FBI deputy director, the major tipster for the story.
Richard Avedon, Ralph Nader, consumer advocate, Washington, D.C. June 8, 1976  Promised Gift of Lisa and John Pritzker, in Honor of the 25th Anniversary of Photography at the National Gallery of Art
Richard Avedon, Edward Kennedy, U.S. Senator from Massachusetts, Washington, D.C., July 29, 1976  Promised Gift of Lisa and John Pritzker, in Honor of the 25th Anniversary of Photography at the National Gallery of Art
 Diane Arbus, Child with toy hand grenade, New York City, 1962, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Deborah Luster, One Big Self: Prisoners of Louisiana, 1998-2002,  National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.  Ms. Luster was driven to this project by her mother's unsolved murder.

Did the photographer choose the clothes?  Why else would the elegant Lady Bird Johnson wear a plain and definitely  unfirst ladylike, striped blouse which could have been purchased at the Walmart? 
 Richard Avedon, Lady Bird Johnson, former First Lady of the United States, McLean, Virginia, August 24, 1976  Promised Gift of Lisa and John Pritzker, in Honor of the 25th Anniversary of Photography at the National Gallery of Art

I asked National Gallery curator Sarah Greenough how the photographer was able to gain approval from so many important subjects for his assembly, and she replied: "He was Richard Avedon." 
Richard Avedon, Cesar Chavez, organizer, United Farm Workers, Keene, California, June 27, 1976  Promised Gift of Lisa and John Pritzker, in Honor of the 25th Anniversary of Photography at the National Gallery of Art

The huge majority of subjects do not smile.  It was not a smiling time, save for one U.S. Congresswoman on the wall from New York, and that would be Bella Abzug (1920-1998).
Richard Avedon, Bella Abzug, U.S. Congresswoman, New York City, June 19, 1976  Promised Gift of Lisa and John Pritzker, in Honor of the 25th Anniversary of Photography at the National Gallery of Art

Of course, Watergate does not encompass the whole show which has about 200 pictures and illustrates the history of photography from the 1840s to present day.
Simon Norfolk, one of four photographs (1934-2004) of The Lewis Glacier, Mt. Kenya,  National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.  The series shows the effects of climate change, and this photograph of one of Norfolk's pictures pollutes the image with reflections on the glass.

What better place for Watergate portraits than  Washington, D.C.? 


Plan to sit for a spell in front of them (if there is room on the bench) and play "Watergate." Be amused by a bygone era and the characters you can identify whose names are listed on a card. 

The exhibition is the third of three National Gallery shows to commemorate the 25th anniversary of its photo collection which now includes nearly 15,000 works by more than 600 artists.  

A catalog with 325 reproductions, essays, and a history of photography, The Altering EyePhotographs from the National Gallery of Art, is available in the shops. Ms. Greenough and the Gallery's Sarah Kennel, Diane Waggoner, Andrea Nelson, and Philip Brookman are the authors.

What:
Celebrating Photography at the National Gallery of Art: Recent Gifts
 

When: Closing March 13, 2016.
 

Where: West Building, National Gallery of Art, between Third and Seventh streets at Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. On the Mall.
 

Admission is always free at the National Gallery of Art.
 

Metro stations: Smithsonian, Federal Triangle, Navy Memorial-Archives, or L'Enfant Plaza

For more information: 202-842-6941

patricialesli@gmail.com

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