“Portraiture Now: Communities” means to teach us about the tightly forged bonds of a community of artists in Philly, a family in Colorado, and the citizens of Maquoketa, Iowa. But all we learn from the exhibit is that these communities happen to be inhabited by a collection of friendly-looking white people, and that they have the good fortune of having attracted the attention of three very talented artists. Rose Frantzen, Jim Torok, and Rebecca Westcott’s paintings are lovely, really—they’re detailed, emotional, and exquisitely realistic. But the exercise of cataloging every member of the community with a portrait feels stiffly ancient and anthropological, like George Catlin’s attempt in the 1830s to document entire Indian tribes before they were lost to assimilation. His try is far more interesting to look at.
THE EXHIBITION IS ON VIEW FROM 11:30 A.M. to 7 P.M. DAILY TO JULY 5 AT THE NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY, 800 F ST. NW. FREE. (202) 633-1000.