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TO APRIL 6
There’s no reason a portrait of an artist should inherently be attractive: With art, what matters is the work that’s created, not the physiognomy of the creator. Thus it’s hardly surprising that most of the images in Portrait of the Art World: A Century of ARTnews Photographs are rather humdrum: an assortment of dapper aesthetes, self-important egotists, tortured souls, and preening celebrities, many posing amid their works, many taking pretentious drags on cigarettes. Fortunately, a few of the images in this exhibit are genuinely revelatory: a boisterously laughing Alexander Calder as he crosses a Paris street carrying one of his mobiles (pictured); Francis Bacon sitting in his London studio, ankle-deep in a fury of paper and trash; Eva Hesse, a beautiful 29, reaching playfully skyward just five years before she was cut down by a brain tumor; and Louise Bourgeois grinning mischievously as she cradles one of her 2-foot-long, naturalistically sculpted phalluses. Inevitably, the exhibition includes several stills from Hans Namuth’s justly iconic series capturing Jackson Pollock mid-canvas, but some of the most compelling images here are actually self-portraits made during the last quarter-century: Andy Warhol, an underrated photographer, portraying himself in moody, washed-out tones; David Hockney and the Starn twins each turning their fractured-image stylings on themselves; Richard Avedon, capturing himself in his signature blank-backed format, thumb poised expectantly on the shutter-release button; and Robert Mapplethorpe, his AIDS-wasted face echoing the skull-topped scepter he grips. These artists, clearly, knew themselves better than any outsider ever could. The exhibition is on view from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday to Sunday, to Sunday, April 6, at the Ripley Center’s Smithsonian International Gallery, 1100 Jefferson Drive SW. Free. (202) 357-2700. (Louis Jacobson)