Back in 2008 when Robert Rauschenberg died, Modern Art Notes blogger Tyler Green slammed the great number of obits that hetero-normalized the artist, noting that they merely hinted at or ignored altogether the artist’s homosexuality and the arguably significant role it played in his work. “[H]istory,” Green lamented, “tends to hetero-wash whenever…it’s convenient…” Enter “Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture,” a show arriving at the National Portrait Gallery this October that promises not to hetero-wash. Organized by NPG historian David C. Ward and Jonathan Katz, visual studies doctoral program director for the State University of New York at Buffalo, “Hide/Seek” takes a whirlwind tour of 100 years of American art, encouraging us to view works by artists from John Singer Sargent to Robert Rauschenberg and Glenn Ligon through the lens of a social history of marginalization. The Portrait Gallery’s take on contemporary issues can be enlivening: While the “Picturing Duchamp” show curated by Anne Collins Goodyear last year (full disclosure: she participated in my art exhibition this July) was uneven in places—offering some pieces that, despite their historical connections, were simply not top-tier or critically validated—the show nonetheless did a stellar job of underlining Duchamp’s gender play via his female alter ego, Rrose Sélavy. “Hide/Seek” promises to revisit that portion of Duchamp’s work, as well as show art of the last half-century in the full context of the 1969 Stonewall riots, the AIDS epidemic, and the advent of postmodernism.

THE EXHIBITION IS ON VIEW 11:30 A.M. TO 7 P.M. DAILY FROM OCT. 30 THROUGH FEB. 13 AT THE NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY, 801 F ST. NW. FREE. (202) 633-8300. 

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