Frank Goodyear, co-director of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, has co-curated “American Cool,” an exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery featuring 100 photographs of icons who have contributed an original artistic vision to American culture and are symbolic figures of their time. The exhibition opens February 7 and runs through September 7, 2014.
Cool is an original American concept and remains a global obsession. “To be cool means to exude the aura of something new and uncontainable,” said Goodyear. “Cool is the opposite of innocence or virtue. Cool has an edge and a dark side. Cool is an earned form of individuality. Each generation has certain individuals who bring innovation and style to a field of endeavor while projecting a certain charismatic self-possession. They are the successful rebels of American culture.”
Goodyear, former curator of photographs at the National Portrait Gallery, curated the exhibition with Joel Dinerstein, the James H. Clark Endowed Chair in American Civilization and director of the New Orleans Center for the Gulf South at Tulane University.
To choose the 100 figures for the show, the exhibition curators created a historical rubric of four factors: An original artistic vision carried off with a signature style; the embodiment of cultural rebellion or transgression for a given generation; iconic power, or instant visual recognition; and a recognized cultural legacy. Each cool figure possesses at least three of these elements; the 100 people represent the successful rebels of American culture.
“American Cool” is made possible by the support of History Channel. Additional support is provided by Destination DC.