Credit: Robert Bergman

There are lessons to be learned from Robert Bergman, who, at 65, is having his first-ever solo exhibition at the National Gallery of Art, only two years after selling his first work. It took a while for the art world to come around to Bergman because his portraits are the sort of meat-and-potatoes work that the art world snubs. The images mostly feature junkies, the homeless, or those who are suffering from what is likely complications from AIDS. Skin is pockmarked, cheeks are sunken, and a general feeling of malaise pervades; though AIDS is never addressed outright in gallery text, both the era the photos were taken and one subject’s donning of a red ribbon allude to the disease. But there are glimpses of a hopeful future—for the children of the exhibition, and for its grizzled old men, tough as nails, who always persevere. THE EXHIBITION IS ON VIEW FROM 10 A.M. TO 5 P.M. MONDAY to SATURDAY and 11 A.M. TO 6 P.M. SUNDAY, TO JAN. 10 AT THE NATIONAL GALLERY OF ART, 4TH STREET AND CONSTITUTION AVE NW. FREE. (202) 737-4215.

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