First Retrospective in 20 Years of Master Photographer Irving Penn, Irving Penn: Beyond Beauty, Opens February 24 at Nashville’s Frist Center

Irving Penn (1917–2009), known for his iconic fashion, portrait and still life images that appeared in Vogue magazine, ranks as one of the twentieth century’s most prolific and influential photographers. The first retrospective of his work in 20 years, Irving Penn: Beyond Beauty conveys the extraordinary breadth and legacy of the American artist and will be on view at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts from February 24 to May 29, 2017.

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Irving Penn. Young Boy, Pause Pause, American South, 1941, printed 2001. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of The Irving Penn Foundation. © The Irving Penn Foundation

Organized by the Smithsonian American Art Museum and Merry Foresta, the museum’s curator of photography from 1983 to 1999, the exhibition contains more than 140 photographs, including the debut of 100 photographs recently donated by The Irving Penn Foundation and several previously unseen or never-before-exhibited photographs. Penn’s renown as a fashion photographer is matched by the recognition of his innovative and insightful portraits, still lifes, nudes, and travel photographs. The exhibition features work from all stages of Penn’s career, including street scenes from the late 1930s, photographs of the American South from the early 1940s, celebrity portraits, fashion photographs, and Penn’s stunning late color work.

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Irving Penn. Bee, New York, 1995, printed 2001. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of The Irving Penn Foundation. © The Irving Penn Foundation

In a career that spanned nearly 70 years, Penn’s aesthetic and technical skill earned him accolades in both the artistic and commercial worlds. He was a master of both black-and-white and color photography, and his revival of platinum printing in the 1960s and 1970s was a catalyst for significant change in the art world. He successfully crossed the chasm that separated magazine and fine-art photography, narrowing the gap between art and fashion. “Penn adopted a workmanlike approach to making pictures,'” says Frist Center Chief Curator Mark Scala.But even in his most commercial images, he upended convention with a penchant for formal surprise.”

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Irving Penn. Woman in Moroccan Palace (Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn), Marrakech, 1951, printed 1969. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the artist. © Condé Nast

Schooled in painting and design, Penn eventually chose photography as his life’s work. His portraits and fashion photographs defined elegance, yet throughout his career, he also transformed mundane objects—storefront signs, food, cigarette butts, street debris—into memorable images of unexpected, often surreal, beauty.

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Irving Penn. Issey Miyake Fashion: White and Black, New York, 1990, printed 1992. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of The Irving Penn Foundation. © The Irving Penn Foundation

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“Isamu Noguchi, Archaic/Modern” at the Smithsonian American Art Museum Presents a Fresh Perspective on the Innovative Vision of This Modern Master

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Isamu Noguchi, 1968. Russell Lynes, photographer. Russell Lynes papers, 1935-1986. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution

Isamu Noguchi (1904-1988) was among the most innovative American sculptors of the 20th century. His design for “Sculpture to Be Seen from Mars” (1947) anticipates the space age by several decades. Even as he created works that were far ahead of his time, Noguchi frequently found inspiration in ancient art and architecture-from Egyptian pyramids and Buddhist temples to Zen gardens and American Indian burial mounds. “Isamu Noguchi, Archaic/Modern” explores how the ancient world shaped this artist’s vision for the future. The Smithsonian American Art Museum is the sole venue for this exhibition, which is expanded from an earlier installation at The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York.

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Isamu Noguchi, Age, 1981, basalt. The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York. Photo by Kevin Noble. © The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York.

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Isamu Noguchi, Atomic Haystack, 1982-83, hot-dipped galvanized steel. The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York. Photo by Kevin Noble. © The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York.

Isamu Noguchi, Archaic/Modern” is on view in the Smithsonian American Art Museum‘s main building from November 11, 2016 through March 19, 2017. Dakin Hart, senior curator at The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York, and Karen Lemmey, curator of sculpture at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, organized the exhibition.

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Isamu Noguchi, Lunar Table, 1961-65, granite. The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York. Photo by Kevin Noble. © The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York.

Magic Mountain, 1984

Isamu Noguchi, Magic Mountain, 1984, Mikage granite and wood. The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York. Photo by Kevin Noble. © The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York.

Isamu Noguchi-born in Los Angeles, raised and educated in Japan, Indiana, New York and Paris-was among the first American artists to think like a citizen of the world,” said Betsy Broun, The Margaret and Terry Stent Director of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. “The exhibition is the latest in a series of major shows to examine the contributions of such international artists as Nam June Paik, Christo, Yasuo Kuniyoshi and Tamayo, and their broad perspectives.”

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Isamu Noguchi, Pregnant Bird, 1958, Greek marble. The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York. Photo by Kevin Noble. © The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York.

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The Smithsonian American Art Museum Opens Its New Galleries for Folk and Self-Taught Art

59 Recent Acquisitions Are Featured

The Smithsonian American Art Museum‘s collection of folk and self-taught art represents the powerful vision of America’s untrained and vernacular artists. Represented in the museum’s collection are pieces that draw on tradition-such as quilts-and artworks that reveal a more personal vision. The museum has re-imagined its permanent collection galleries to feature 59 recent acquisitions, an expanded presentation of the beloved “Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations Millennium General Assembly” by James Hampton, reopened historic windows and new oak floors. The galleries opened to the public today, Friday, Oct. 21.

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James Hampton, The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations’ Millennium General Assembly, 1950-1964, mixed media. Smithsonian American Art Museum. Gift of anonymous donors; Gift of Margaret Kelley McHugh, Nancy Kelley Schneider and William H. Kelley; Gift of Harry Lowe.

The Smithsonian American Art Museum has long recognized folk and self-taught art as integral to the greater story of American art,” said Betsy Broun, The Margaret and Terry Stent Director of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. “The museum’s mission to tell the story of America through the art of its people is particularly relevant at a time when museums everywhere are realizing that an expanded narrative of what American art is is necessary for engaging and satisfying contemporary audiences and accurately portraying the scope of creativity in this country.”

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Emery Blagdon, The Healing Machine, 1955-1986, mixed media. Smithsonian American Art Museum. Museum purchase through the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment; Gift of Dan Dryden, friend of Emery Blagdon; Gift of Kohler Foundation, Inc.; Gift of John E. and Douglas O. Robson, from the Margaret Z. Robson Collection.

Recently acquired works by Consuelo Gonzalez Amezcua, Emery Blagdon, David Butler, Ulysses Davis, Ralph Fasanella, Clementine Hunter, Dan Miller, Joe Minter, Eddy Mumma, J.B. Murray, Achilles Rizzoli, Melvin Way, Charlie Willeto, Clarence and Grace Woolsey, Purvis Young and Albert Zahn join visitor favorites by Thornton Dial, Lonnie Holley, Martín Ramírez and Jon Serl. A striking presence in the galleries is a display of more than 60 sculptures and paintings by Blagdon that represents his constantly changing “Healing Machine.” It is the second-largest installation of his work on public view in the United States.

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Clementine Hunter, Melrose Quilt, 1960, fabric. Smithsonian American Art Museum. Museum purchase through the Barbara Coffey Quilt Endowment.

“The first-floor galleries for folk and self-taught art should have a powerful impact on visitors, conveying not only the museum’s commitment to diverse American narratives and manifesting the tremendous quality, depth and power that art by untrained artists can have, but also affirming its rightful position in a museum of great art,” said Leslie Umberger, the museum’s curator of folk and self-taught art.

Since it acquired Hampton’s “Throne” in 1970, the museum has been recognized internationally as a leader in championing the importance of works by artists who have no formal art training. Subsequent acquisitions, including major collections from Herbert Waide Hemphill Jr., Chuck and Jan Rosenak, and David L. Davies in the 1980s and 1990s, as well as recent selections by Umberger, have resulted in the museum becoming one of the only major American museums to clearly advocate for a populist and uniquely American voice within the context of great art. Continue reading

New Exhibition “Visions And Revisions: Renwick Invitational 2016” Opens Sept. 9 At The Smithsonian American Art Museum

Renwick Gallery Showcases Contemporary Artists Steven Young Lee, Kristen Morgin, Jennifer Trask and Norwood Viviano

Visions and Revisions: Renwick Invitational 2016 presents the work of Steven Young Lee, Kristen Morgin, Jennifer Trask and Norwood Viviano, four artists who take innovative approaches to their chosen mediums and who share a fascination with themes of transformation, ruin and rebirth. Their visual sensibilities draw upon sources ranging from traditional Asian pottery to vintage Americana, and from the romance of the Victorian Era to the algorhythmic precision of the computer. Visions and Revisions” is the seventh installment of the biennial Renwick Invitational.

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(The Renwick Gallery is the Smithsonian American Art Museum‘s branch for contemporary craft and decorative arts. The Renwick is located on Pennsylvania Avenue at 17th Street N.W. and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25). Admission is free.)

The Renwick Invitational is an opportunity to celebrate emerging and mid-career artists, honoring the next generation of makers and taking the pulse of what’s happening in the field today,” said Betsy Broun, The Margaret and Terry Stent Director of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. “We are delighted to showcase these four exceptional artists and to bring their works onto the national stage of the Renwick Gallery.”

These artists are united by a love of physical materials in a time when many objects are disappearing in favor of a virtual world,” Atkinson said. “In their own way, they each engage in an ongoing dialogue with an idyllic past and how to make sense of it for the present moment, examining what we choose to carry with us and what we leave behind as we remake ourselves time and again.”

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(Top Left) Steven Young Lee, Jar with Landscape and Gold Butterflies, 2015, porcelain, cobalt inlay, glaze, decals. Collection of Tom Rossiter and Nathalie Ribon-Tourre. Image courtesy Duane Reed Gallery (Top Right) Kristen Morgin, Piano Forte, 2004, unfired clay, wood, wire, salt, cement, glue. Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Purchase (Bottom Left) Jennifer Trask, Burgeon, 2012, Found 18th & 19th century Italian gilt wood fragments, 22K & 23.5 K gold leaf, antler, bone, teeth (various), epoxy resin. Private collection. Image courtesy of the artist. Photo by Storm Photo (Bottom Right) Norwood Viviano, Mining Industries: Downtown Boston (Boston), 2015, rapid prototyped pattern kilncast glass, mirrored glass, fabricated steel and transparency. Collection of the artist, courtesy of Heller Gallery, New York. Photo by Tim Thayer/Robert Hensleigh, courtesy Heller Gallery, NY

The exhibition includes more than 70 objects showcasing a range of early and new works by each artist and will be on view Sept. 9 through Jan. 8, 2017. Nora Atkinson, the museum’s Lloyd Herman Curator of Craft, organized the exhibition. The artists were selected by Atkinson; Suzanne Ramljak, curator of exhibitions at the American Federation of Arts and editor at Metalsmith; and Anna Walker, the Windgate Foundation Curatorial Fellow for Contemporary Craft at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

Lee’s porcelain works combine traditional Asian forms, inlay techniques and glazes with Western motifs and pop-culture references. His process often allows the clay forms to sink under their own weight in the kiln, creating dramatic “broken” silhouettes that can never be replicated. The resulting vessels embody equal parts mastery and chance, and reflect Lee’s own inquiries into the nature of perfection, the construction of identity and balancing tradition with personal expression.

Morgin’s unconventional trompe l’oeil ceramic sculptures and assemblages explore nostalgia, obsolescence and the American dream. Her works, ranging in scale from recreations of full-size cars and orchestral instruments to tiny knick-knacks and toys, appear as found objects but are in fact raw, unfired clay. Substituting paint and collage for the gloss of traditional ceramic glazes, Morgin achieves a garage-sale aesthetic in which thrift-store heroes like Popeye and Mighty Mouse preside and vintage playthings find new meaning. The sculptures represent a poignant investigation of the value of the old in a world intent on the new, invoking a sense of bygone innocence, loss and isolation.

Trask combines unexpected materials such as bone, butterfly wings, resin, metal and antique frame fragments to create jewelry and large-scale sculptures. Her lifelong fascination with biology, archaeology and anthropology inform lavish works celebrating the splendor of the natural world and exploring the ongoing tension between its wild and domesticated spheres, while visually recalling 17th-century Dutch vanitas paintings and Victorian wonder cabinets. Animal remains–antler, horn, teeth, tusk and bone–feature prominently in Trask’s work, evoking cycles of death, transformation and rebirth.

Viviano explores the rise and fall of American cities and industry through glass and metal sculptures. He combines data from LiDAR scan technology, antique maps and historical census data, and employs techniques as varied as bronze casting, kiln-fusing, glass blowing and 3-D printing to map fluctuations of growth and decline as industry and other forces exert pressure on populations. His work engages not only the geography but also the history of a place, imbuing each object with layers of information to tell stories of how urbanization, immigration and industry shape both personal and shared histories.

A series of free public programs will accompany the exhibition. Three of the artists discuss their work at the Renwick: Viviano Thursday, Oct. 13, at noon, Morgin Sunday, Oct. 30, at 2 p.m. and Trask Tuesday, Dec. 6, at 5:30 p.m. Atkinson will present a gallery talk on the four artists Friday, Oct. 21, at noon. Additional information about programs is available online at www.americanart.si.edu/calendar.

An accompanying catalog co-published with D Giles Limited, London, includes a foreword by Broun and essays by Atkinson, Ramljak and Walker. It will be for sale in the museum’s store and online ($34.95, softcover). The Ryna and Melvin Cohen Family Foundation Endowment provides support for the “Renwick Invitational.” The Cohen Family’s generosity in creating this endowment makes possible this biennial series highlighting outstanding craft artists who are deserving of wider national recognition.

Smithsonian Museums to Celebrate “America Now” This Summer

Three Smithsonian Museums To Present Programs That Capture American Participation in Democracy, Dance, Portraiture, Music and ArtSI large color.jpg

America Now,” a collaboration of programs jointly organized by three Smithsonian museums, will create spaces for civic engagement and cultural connections under the unifying theme of “participation” since 2016 is an election year. The National Portrait Gallery, National Museum of American History and Smithsonian American Art Museum will present five programs this summer, between May 27 and July 9, designed to engage a variety of audiences in the American experience. To encourage participation in the country’s democratic system, the museums are also partnering with Rock the Vote, a non-profit, non-partisan organization focused on building political power for young people. Rock the Vote will assist all three museums to register voters at the events and to encourage their participation in the election process through volunteering and being informed about the issues.

The National Portrait Gallery will kick off the series Memorial Day weekend, with an evening program Friday, May 27. Events at the National Museum of American History will take place, Tuesday, June 14, Flag Day, and Saturday, June 18. The series will conclude Saturday, July 9, at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. All events with one exception are free and open to general audiences. This second annual “America Now” collaboration on programming is made possible by the support of the Robert and Arlene Kogod Family Foundation. Details are outlined below and at #AmericaNow and www.si.edu/events.

National Portrait Gallery

“America Now” Cultured Snapshots and Cameos

Friday, May 27; 6:30-9:30 p.m.

Robert and Arlene Kogod Courtyard

Eighth and F streets N.W.

Jazz and folk musicians the Leyla McCalla Trio will perform songs from albums Vari-Colored Songs: a Tribute to Langston Hughes (2013) and A Day for the Hunter, A Day for the Prey (2016). McCalla, a Haitian American who sings in French, Haitian Creole and English, also plays cello, tenor banjo and guitar. Her trio includes Daniel Tremblay and Free Feral, who sing and play banjo, guitar and the viola. The evening will be rounded out with DJ Adrian Loving as he spins songs inspired by the American songbook, old and new. Visitors can jump into a photo booth created by the artist collective Manual Cinema. The booth will capture silhouettes of visitors as a memento for the evening.

National Museum of American History

“America Now” Naturalization Ceremony

Tuesday, June 14; 11 a.m.-2 p.m.

Flag Hall

Constitution Avenue, between 12th and 14th streets N.W.

On Flag Day, June 14, the museum will host a naturalization ceremony in front of the Star-Spangled Banner Gallery to mark how America’s democracy is strengthened by the diversity and community of its citizenry. During the ceremony, Smithsonian Secretary David Skorton will present the James Smithson Bicentennial Medal to an American who embodies values based on the diffusion of knowledge.

National Museum of American History

“America Now” Go-Go and Hip-Hop: Community Innovations

Saturday, June 18; 1-4 p.m.

Coulter Performance Plaza, 1West

Constitution Avenue, between 12th and 14th streets N.W.

Visitors can join the museum’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation for a discussion and performances celebrating go-go and hip-hop music, which developed in Washington, D.C., and New York City around the 1970s and out of similar socioeconomic circumstances.

National Museum of American History

“America Now: We the Party People”

This is a ticketed and a 21+ event.

Saturday, June 18; 7-11 p.m.

Constitution Avenue, between 12th and 14th streets N.W.

Inspired by the passionate political participation of 19th-century American youth, the museum will convene “We the Party People,” an after-hours event presented with Brightest Young Things. This non-partisan celebration will explore how Americans have participated in their democracy with lightening talks, political history objects-out-of-storage and much more. For more information on this ticketed and 21+ event, visit www.americanhistory.si.edu.

Smithsonian American Art Museum

“Creativity in a Citizen Democracy”

Saturday, July 9; 4-7 p.m.

Robert and Arlene Kogod Courtyard

Eighth and F streets N.W.

The third and final program in this exciting series celebrates the ways Americans participate in democracy-through art, music, storytelling and service. The program features performances by D.C. hip-hop artist Tarica June and bluegrass bands Steep Canyon Rangers and Seldom Scene. Inspired by the music, visitors can pick up paint brushes to express what American means to them on a 20-foot community mural, post Instagram photos from around the museum that will stream in a live feed in the Kogod Courtyard, post with artworks from the collection in a photo booth, write letters to active military service members and share information about a favorite American artist by participating in a Wikipedia edit-a-thon. Additional activities are planned and will be added to the museum’s online calendar as details are confirmed.

Smithsonian American Art Museum and Renwick Gallery April 2016 Programs

Program location is noted with each program. Programs are free and open to the public unless ticket information is noted.

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Art Talks and Activities

Yoga in Luce

Wednesday, April 13, 2016, 6 – 7:30pm

Bring your mat and relax with this vinyasa yoga and art appreciation series in the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Luce Foundation Center. Participants will be invited to reflect on a Luce Center artwork of their choosing before a credentialed instructor from Flow Yoga Center leads a one hour, all levels class.

Location: Smithsonian American Art Museum, Luce Foundation Center

Tickets: $10, Must pre-register online

Event Link: http://americanart.si.edu/calendar/event.cfm?trumbaEmbed=view%3Devent%26eventid%3D118351429 

Art Signs: ASL Gallery Talk

Thursday, April 14, 2016, 5:30pm

Join the Smithsonian American Art Museum for gallery conversations about artworks presented by an ASL gallery guide. For more information email wilsoncl@si.edu.

Location: Smithsonian American Art Museum, Meet in F Street Lobby

Tickets: Free

Event Link: http://americanart.si.edu/calendar/event.cfm?trumbaEmbed=view%3Devent%26eventid%3D117380432

Artist Talk with Janet Echelman

Saturday, April 16, 2016, 2pm

Hear artist Janet Echelman discuss her immersive work 1.8, a suspended net that surges across the Renwick Gallery’s Grand Salon in waves evoking a tsunami. Echelman discusses how she creates her woven pieces and how the Renwick’s architecture inspired this work.

Location: Renwick Gallery, 2nd Floor

Tickets: Free

Event Link: http://americanart.si.edu/calendar/event.cfm?trumbaEmbed=view%3Devent%26eventid%3D118112327

Luce Artist Talk with Soomin Ham

Sunday, April 17, 2016, 1:30pm

Join Flashpoint Gallery’s exhibiting artist Soomin Ham at the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Luce Foundation Center as she discusses her work in photography and mixed media and where it falls in the progression of art history.

Location: Smithsonian American Art Museum, Luce Foundation Center

Tickets: Free

Event Link: http://americanart.si.edu/calendar/event.cfm?trumbaEmbed=view%3Devent%26eventid%3D115173557

Artist Talk with Eric Serritella

Sunday, April 17, 2016, 2pm

Hear a talk at the Renwick Gallery from ceramicist Eric Serritella, whose trompe l’oeil works challenge ideas about nature and the environment. He discusses the variety of processes he uses, including the wheel, hand-building techniques, carving, and firing.

Location: Renwick Gallery, 2nd Floor

Tickets: Free

Event Link: http://americanart.si.edu/calendar/event.cfm?trumbaEmbed=view%3Devent%26eventid%3D118112383

WONDER Gallery Talk with Seán Brady

Wednesday, April 20, 2016, noon

Get a closer look at Jennifer Angus’s Renwick Galleryinstallation In the Midnight Garden with a talk from Seán Brady, chair of the Entomology Department at the National Museum of Natural History.

Location: Renwick Gallery, 1st Floor, Meet at Information Desk

Tickets: Free

Event Link: http://americanart.si.edu/calendar/event.cfm?trumbaEmbed=view%3Devent%26eventid%3D118112396 Continue reading

First Retrospective in 20 Years of Master Photographer Irving Penn Opens Oct. 23 at the Smithsonian American Art Museum

EXHIBITION INCLUDES PREVIOUSLY UNSEEN PHOTOGRAPHS AND FILM OF ARTIST AT WORK

Irving Penn (1917–2009), known for his iconic fashion, portrait and still life images that appeared in Vogue magazine, ranks as one of the foremost photographers of the 20th century. “Irving Penn: Beyond Beauty” at The Smithsonian American Art Museum, the first retrospective of Penn’s work in nearly 20 years, will celebrate his legacy as a modern master and demonstrate the photographer’s continued influence on the medium.

Irving Penn, Salvador Dali, New York, 1947, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the artist. Copyright © The Irving Penn Foundation

Irving Penn, Salvador Dali, New York, 1947, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the artist. Copyright © The Irving Penn Foundation

In a career that spanned nearly 70 years, Penn’s aesthetic and technical skill earned him accolades in both the artistic and commercial worlds. He was a master of both black-and-white and color photography, and his revival of platinum printing in the 1960s and 1970s was a catalyst for significant change in the art world. He was one of the first photographers to cross the chasm that separated magazine and fine-art photography, narrowing the gap between art and fashion. Penn’s portraits and fashion photographs defined elegance in the 1950s, yet throughout his career he also transformed mundane objects—storefront signs, food, cigarette butts, street debris—into memorable images of unexpected, often surreal, beauty.

Smithsonian Institute/Smithsonian American Art Museum logo

Smithsonian Institute/Smithsonian American Art Museum logo

The exhibition features work from all stages of Penn’s career—street scenes from the late 1930s, photographs of the American South from the early 1940s, celebrity portraits, fashion photographs, still lifes and more private studio images. Penn’s pictures reveal a taste for stark simplicity whether he was photographing celebrities, fashion models, still lifes or people in remote places of the world.

Irving Penn: Beyond Beauty” is drawn entirely from the extensive holdings of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. On display will be 146 photographs from the museum’s permanent collection, including the debut of 100 photographs recently donated to the museum by The Irving Penn Foundation. The exhibition presents 48 previously unseen or never exhibited photographs. Also on view for the first time will be Super 8 mm films of Penn in Morocco, made by his wife Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn, that add a vivid picture of the artist at work.

Irving Penn, Bee, New York, 1995, printed 2001, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Promised Gift of The Irving Penn Foundation.

Irving Penn, Bee, New York, 1995, printed 2001, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Promised Gift of The Irving Penn Foundation.

The 100 photographs announced as a donation to the museum in 2013 include rare street photographs from the late 1930s and 1940s, most of which are unpublished; images of post-war Europe; iconic portraits of figures such as Truman Capote, Salvador Dali and Leontyne Price; color photographs made for magazine editorials and commercial advertising; self-portraits; and some of Penn’s most recognizable fashion and still life photographs. All the prints were made during the artist’s lifetime and personally approved by him. In 1988, Penn donated to the museum 60 photographs, spanning his career from 1944 to 1986.

Irving Penn: Beyond Beauty” will be on view from October 23, 2015 through March 20, 2016; it will then travel to several cities across the United States. Merry Foresta is the guest curator; she was the museum’s curator of photography from 1983 to 1999.

Irving Penn, Ball Dress by Olivier Theyskens for Nina Ricci, New York, 2007, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of The Irving Penn Foundation. Copyright © Condé Nast

Irving Penn, Ball Dress by Olivier Theyskens for Nina Ricci, New York, 2007, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of The Irving Penn Foundation. Copyright © Condé Nast

Irving Penn’s art leads to many aesthetic discoveries, transcending daily life through intense leaps of feeling and understanding,” said Betsy Broun, The Margaret and Terry Stent Director of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. “I am grateful to the Penn Foundation team for their generosity and for their participation at every step along our journey of discovery. They shared our excitement and encouraged us to pursue all new directions. A review of Penn’s whole career persuades me that in his last 20 years he became bolder and more daring, a turn that this exhibition begins to explore.”

Irving Penn, Leontyne Price, New York, 1961, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Irving Penn Foundation. Copyright © Condé Nast

Irving Penn, Leontyne Price, New York, 1961, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Irving Penn Foundation. Copyright © Condé Nast

From his first photographs to the ones he made in the last years of his life, Irving Penn’s consistency of artistic integrity is remarkable,” said Foresta. “He was able to elevate even crushed coffee cups and steel blocks to the realm of great art, printing his images with exacting care. But in the final analysis his work is not just about beauty, or about the potentials of photography as an art form, but a combination of the two that is indivisible and unique. Continue reading