Exhibition

The Outwin: American Portraiture Today

September 10, 2021 - January 23, 2022
Ebsworth and Garen Galleries

The Outwin: American Portraiture Today, a major exhibition organized by the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, features the finalists of the Portrait Gallery’s fifth triennial Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition.

Every three years, artists living and working in the United States are invited to submit a recent portrait to a panel of experts chosen by the Portrait Gallery. In 2019, forty-six works were selected from over 2,600 entries in a variety of media, including painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, time-based media, and performance art. Artists were asked explicitly to submit works that respond to the current political and social context; the resulting presentation offers perspectives on a range of themes of sociopolitical relevance, including immigration, the status of American workers, mass incarceration, gun violence, and LGBTQ+ rights.  

Finalists come from fourteen states, Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico. While some portraits reflect a direct encounter between artist and sitter, others depict historical figures such as the author and activist James Baldwin, the civil rights worker Lottie Green Varner, and George Stinney Jr., a fourteen-year-old boy executed for a crime he did not commit. The majority of the works represent people who are vulnerable, including immigrants crossing the border, unaccompanied minors seeking shelter, and LGBTQ+ refugees, as well as those figures who are known for supporting social justice. All of the final selections reflect a keen awareness of  portraiture’s potential to insist on the presence, and importance, of every human being, evoking a strong sense of activism rooted in empathy.  

2019 Competition Winners and Finalists 

Hugo Crosthwaite, the competition’s first-prize winner, is a resident of San Diego and the first Latinx artist to receive this prestigious award since the national competition was founded in 2006. His prize-winning stop-motion drawing animation, A Portrait of Berenice Sarmiento Chávez (2018), recounts a woman’s journey across the border from Tijuana, Mexico, to the United States in pursuit of a better life. His sensitive portrayal of her struggles amplifies the role of portraiture in this critical time of border politics. Crosthwaite received a cash award of $25,000 and a commission to create a portrait of a living individual for the Portrait Gallery’s permanent collection. Previous first-prize winners are David Lenz (2006), Dave Woody (2009), Bo Gehring (2013), and Amy Sherald (2016).

View all 2019 winners and finalists >>

2019 Jurors and Curators

The jurors for the 2019 Competition were Harry Gamboa Jr., artist, writer and co-director of the program in photography and media at the California Institute of the Arts; Lauren Haynes, curator of contemporary art at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art; Byron Kim, artist and senior critic at the Yale School of Art; and Jefferson Pinder, artist and professor of sculpture and contemporary practices at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Three Portrait Gallery curators also served on the committee: Taína Caragol, curator of painting and sculpture and Latino art and history; Dorothy Moss, curator of painting and sculpture and performance art; and Brandon Brame Fortune, chief curator emerita. 

Dorothy Moss served as director of the 2019 Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition and co-curated the exhibition with Taína Caragol. 

The exhibition’s presentation at the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum is curated by Meredith Malone, associate curator.

Catalog

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalog with contributions by the originating exhibition curators as well as jurors’ comments. 

Exhibition Support

The Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition is made possible by the Virginia Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition Endowment, established by Virginia Outwin Boochever and continued by her children.

The presentation at the Kemper Art Museum is made possible by a generous grant from the William T. Kemper Foundation. 

Image credits

Hugo Crosthwaite, A Portrait of Berenice Sarmiento Chávez, 2018. Stop-motion drawing animation (3:12 min.). Collection of the artist, courtesy Luis De Jesus Los Angeles © Hugo Crosthwaite.

Genevieve Gaignard, Trailblazer (A Dream Deferred), 2017. Inkjet print. Collection of the artist, courtesy of Vielmetter Los Angeles © Genevieve Gaignard.

Sam Comen, Jesus Sera, Dishwasher, 2018. Inkjet print. Collection of the artist © Sam Comen.

Richard Greene, Monroe, LA, 2016. Inkjet print. Collection of the artist © Richard Greene.

Deborah Roberts, 80 days (from the Nessun Dorma series), 2018. Paper, acrylic, graphite, and pastel on canvas. Collection of the artist, courtesy of Stephen Friedman Gallery, London © Deborah Roberts.