Robert Mapplethorpes Self-Portrait from 1975 is part of Hide/Seek, a new exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery.
Another nontraditional portrait sits in a pile in a corner of the gallery. “Untitled (Portrait of Ross in L.A.)” by Felix Gonzalez-Torres is a heap of colorfully wrapped candy that visitors are invited to eat. The work is a memorial to Gonzalez-Torres’ partner who died of AIDS, and the spread of the candy is meant to turn him into a martyr and represent the spread of AIDS.
Some artists featured in the exhibit, such as Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg, gave permission to have their work displayed in the context of “Hide/Seek.”
Johns and Rauschenberg were romantically involved for a time; several of their works are displayed. Their influence on each other’s artwork is apparent, especially as their art is displayed near each other. Ward said the show brings forward a topic that was known but not discussed for a long time. But Ward said he also hopes “Hide/Seek” will revitalize interest in American portraiture.
“Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture” runs through Feb. 13.