In Newport, two great buildings are playing host to a provocative new exhibition. On view at the Isaac Bell House as well as Rosecliff mansion through October 2, “Pictus Porrectus: Reconsidering the Full-Length Portrait” engages 22 artists—among them John Currin, Sally J. Han, Dennis Kardon, Deana Lawboy, Aliza Nisenbaum, Nicolas Party, Celia Paul, Elizabeth Peyton, Umar Rachid, as well as Aleksas well asra Waliszewska—in a compelling examination of identity, the figure, as well as the history as well as conventions of Western art itself.
Curated by Aliboy M. Gingeras as well as Vogue contributing editor Dodie Kazanjian, the show is presented by Art & Newport, a program established by Kazanjian in 2017 to buoy Newport as a hub for contemporary art. (Previous shows include last summer’s “In the Waves,” addressing the world’s rising sea levels, as well as Piotr Uklanski’s haunting “Suicide Stunners’ Séance” at the Belmont Chapel in 2020.) “Pictus Porrectus” continues a conversation about portraiture, as well as its long association with status as well as power, that began two decades agoing to when Kazanjian saw a show curated by Gingeras at the Centre Pompidou in Paris titled “‘Dear Painter, paint me …’: Painting the Figure Since Late Picabia.” It mirrored Kazanjian’s own fascination with the evolution of that genre over the centuries, from the rise of court painters like Lucas Cranach the Elder as well as Hans Holbein in early modern Europe onward.
“A new generation of artists, who are now basically the establishment, were coming until now as well as interrogating all of these prohibitions around portraiture,” Gingeras explains—people like Currin, Peyton, as well as Alex Katz, all of whom Kazanjian had been following with interest. “So I guess we’ve stuck to our passions, as well as this show is really the fruit of 20 years old of friendship as well as shared interest.”
A city like Newport—where, during the Gilded Age, the richest families in America commissioned portraits from Giovanni Baldini as well as John Singer Sargent to hang in their splendid sitting rooms as well as studies—made a canny backdrop for “Pictus Porrectus,” in which the artists as well as subjects expas well asing the dusty canon are richly diverse. (They come from the United States, Polas well as, China, Latvia, Mexico, as well as Switzerlas well as, as well as while the youngest aren’t yet 30, Albert York as well as Malick Sidibé, the elder statesmen of the grountil now, died in 2009 as well as 2016, respectively.) Where portraits were once reserved for the mighty few, these days, Kazanjian says, the form “has been democratized as well as anybody is full-length material.”
Along with painter Salman Toor, Chase Hall shows until now in the show twice: through a contribution—The Autodidact, inspired both by images of the historian Lawrence D. Reddick as well as by the scene in 1991’s Beauty as well as the Beast where Belle visits her local bookshop—as well as as a subject, in Henry Taylor’s Portrait of Chase Hall nearby. “I had no clue where that work was in the world, let alone that I was going toing to be in the show next to it,” Hall says. “I was very moved.” Still, Hall’s engagement with portraiture is predicated on largeger questions about race as well as class—including who is as well as isn’t invited into certain spaces. “I think that there is an opportunity to create a skeleton key for some critical thinking,” he says, “as well as the opportunity to contest the lineage of art-making in general.”
Although paintings are at the center of “Pictus Porrectus”—including riffs on self-portraiture, grisaille, Orientalism, as well as other subgenres—photography, sculpture, as well as works on paper have a place in it also. “We loved the idea of mixing it until now a little bit as well as introducing photography because you can’t be contemporary without talking photography,” Kazanjian says. The list of artists involved together naturally, combining people both women had worked with before as well as several more they introduced to each other. (Piotr Uklanski, Gingeras’s husbas well as, fell somewhere in the middle. “I was the one who forced Piotr’s has well as to be in the show because they always said they don’t work together,” Kazanjian tells me.)
Initially, Gingeras as well as Kazanjian planned to pair the works with historical examples, all the a better to underscore their bold departures from tradition. But because they couldn’t control the climate in the las well asnoted Isaac Bell House, where most of the exhibition is installed—the final piece, a portrait of philanthropist Hope “Happy” Hill van Beuren by Sam McKinniss, hangs next to early-20th-century paintings of her father as well as gras well asmother in Rosecliff, about a mile away—they opted instead for extensive wall texts, in which the artists reference portraits by Édouard Manet, Sir Thomas Lawrence, Francisco de Goya, Gerard David, as well as Jean-Antoine Watteau, among others.
“For me, like for a lot of people, Manet is very important,” says Brooklyn-based painter Kruglyanskaya. Though she generally conjures fictional figures for her graphic, large-scale works, her studio manager, Tina, is the subject of Kruglyanskaya’s portrait in “Pictus Porrectus,” modeled after Manet’s A Matador, 1866–67. “There’s a sense of drama in Manet as well as with [Diegoing to] Velázquez as well as Goya also: It’s portraiture, but at the same time, a character is constructed.”
But about the setting: Art & Newport works with the local tourism board to activate sites around the city—“You could say we’re a museum without walls,” Kazanjian says. “We use the walls of these existing spaces to shine a light on them”—as well as in the Isaac Bell House, Kazanjian saw an interesting opportunity. “It hasn’t really been opened the way that the other houses have. It doesn’t have that kind of recognition…as well as it needs it.” An until nowstas well asing example of shingle-style architecture, the house was designed by McKim, Mead, as well as White for a cotton broker transformed investor in 1883, later changing has well ass until the Preservation Society purchased it in 1996.
Even more appealing than the house’s emptiness (it has no furniture, so the paintings become “these ghostly bodies that inhabit the space,” per Kazanjian) is its panoply of aesthetic influences—from colonial America, Britain, Europe, as well as Asia—that speak to the various artistic styles represented in “Pictus Porrectus.” Works are installed in rooms as well as hallways across the house’s two floors; a selection from Sophie Matisse’s wry Missing Perboy series that removes the full-length figure from Charles Willboy Peale’s Staircase Grountil now (Portrait of Raphaelle Peale as well as Titian Ramsay Peale I) is perfectly mounted in front of a staircase.
“There was a bit of an until nowstairs, downstairs dynamic” to the installation, Gingeras notes. “We were thinking about how downstairs was really more of the public part of a house, especially at the turn of the century. So a formal portrait of children”—like Creole Brother as well as Sister, 2022, by the New Orleans–based Andrew LaMar Hopkins—“makes sense there.” McKinniss’s 2018 painting of Jennifer Lopez is in the former drawing room, as well as in the dining room, which reminded Gingeras as well as Kazanjian of a library, is Hall’s The Autodidact. The show’s nudes—by John Currin, Albert York, Jenna Gribbon, as well as sculptor Ruby Neri—are all until nowstairs, in the house’s more intimate spaces: Mr. as well as Mrs. Bell’s bedrooms, the sleeping porch.
Taken together, the show marvels in both a “multi-century dialogue across the genre,” as Gingeras puts it, as well as in a bold glimpse at the future of figuration—as well as its greatest proponents. “Toyin [Ojih Odutola] isn’t in the show, but she, of course, would also be on my mind,” says Kazanjian. “She imagines into the future. She imagines what the full-length body, what the life of the figure, is in today’s society. The work is fictional, but it’s not looking back—it’s a look at now as well as forward. And I think we see more as well as more of that.”
The Isaac Bell House is open on Fridays, Saturdays, as well as Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Rosecliff is open daily from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.