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Andy Warhol’s“Flash – – – – November 22, 1963”

From his Brillo Box sculptures of 1964 to his Leonardo da Vinci-inspired Last Supper series of 1986, Andy Warhol’s most compelling work examines the profound influence mass-produced images have on our visual culture, national identity, and individual psyches. In his remarkable 1968 print portfolio Flash – – – – November 22, 1963, Warhol documents the events that unfolded over the four days between President John F. Kennedy’s assassination—perhaps the most mythologized episode in our nation’s recent political history—and his funeral. The 14-print portfolio pairs imagery appropriated from well-known mass-media photographs with texts—appearing on the folders that originally housed the prints—compiled from wire-service reports of the assassination and its aftermath. The collage-like John Fitzgerald Kennedy/Jacqueline Lee Bouvier Kennedy (pictured) juxtaposes photographic images of the smiling couple, taken just before the lethal shots were fired, with a textual description of Lee Harvey Oswald’s arrest:“FLASH/ DALLAS — POLICE ARREST — HOT SUSPECT./ BULLETIN FIRST LEAD SUSPECT/ DALLAS, NOV. 22 — DALLAS POLICE ANNOUNCE THEY HAVE ARRESTED/ A — HOT SUSPECTþ IN THE ASSASSINATION OF PRESIDENT KENNEDY.” The dispassionate texts intensify the images’ power, making them appear both brutal and tender: Warhol is able to suggest that genuine emotional response may be impossible amidst such large-scale media-orchestrated pathos even as he masterfully memorializes a brief time when grief united an astonished nation. From Sept. 18, to Nov. 29 at the National Portrait Gallery, 8th & F Sts. NW. Free. (202) 357-2700. (Leonard Roberge)