“The Obama Portraits Tour” arrives at the High Museum of Art on Friday, Jan. 14, for an up-close look at the iconic paintings of former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama by artists Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald, respectively.
Organized by the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, the portraits will be on view through March 20 in the High’s Stent Family Wing special exhibition galleries.
“We are honored to present these portraits as the exclusive Southeastern venue for the tour and to afford our audiences an intimate experience with the works,” said Rand Suffolk, the High’s Nancy and Holcombe T. Green, Jr., director. “They demonstrate the incredible talents of Amy Sherald and Kehinde Wiley, two artists the Museum holds in high esteem, and serve as important records of a historic period in our nation’s history.”
In addition to the portraits, the exhibition features an approximately eight-minute video providing background on the commissioning of the portraits by the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery and putting them into the context of the national collection of presidential portraits.
This spring, the High Museum of Art will present a thematic exhibition featuring contemporary artworks from the early 1990s through the present that examine the different ways that one of the most powerful forces of life — love — is understood, expressed or perhaps left unspoken.
On view March 25 to Aug. 14, “What Is Left Unspoken, Love” juxtaposes works that represent watershed moments in the history of contemporary art, such as Felix Gonzalez-Torres’s “‘Untitled’ (Perfect Lovers)” (1987-1990), with art of the past decade, including six works created especially for the exhibition, such as “Our Love Was Deeply Purple” (2021) by Alanna Fields. The exhibition will consider love as a profound subject of exploration from time immemorial that is nonetheless still relevant to the contingencies of 21st-century life.
“Where I grew up, love is an embarrassing feeling that is often left as an understanding but not given voice,” said the High’s Wieland Family Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art Michael Rooks. “For many people, to say ‘I love you’ can be debilitating, so, a goal of the exhibition is to consider how love might be an empowering experience rather than an exercise in futility, as in the narrative arc of Carrie Mae Weems’ ‘The Kitchen Table Series’; something tangible rather than an illusion, like the functional black-glazed earthenware of Kahlil Robert Irving; or a moral virtue rather than an emotional weakness, as demonstrated in Patty Chang’s ‘Que Sera Sera/Invocations’.”
“What Is Left Unspoken, Love” will include nearly 70 works, including painting, sculpture, photography, video, media art and installation, by more than 35 diverse and multigenerational artists based in North America, Europe and Asia.
These artists include Ghada Amer, Rina Banerjee, Thomas Barger, Patty Chang, Susanna Coffey, James Drake, Keith Edmier and Farrah Fawcett, Alanna Fields, Dara Friedman, Andrea Galvani, General Idea, Jeffrey Gibson, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Kahlil Robert Irving, Tomashi Jackson, María de los Angeles Rodríguez Jiménez, Rashid Johnson, Jana Vander Lee, Gerald Lovell, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Kerry James Marshall, Felicita Felli Maynard, Wangechi Mutu, Ebony Patterson, Paul Pfeiffer, Magnus Plessen, Gabriel Rico, Dario Robleto, RongRong&inri, Michelle Stuart, Vivian Suter, Carrie Mae Weems and Akram Zaatari.
There’s also still time to catch several other notable exhibitions including the photography of “Picturing the South” (through Feb. 6), “KAWS PRINTS” featuring work by printmaker Brian Donnelly (through March 27) and “Disrupting Design: Modern Posters, 1900-1940” (through April 24).
For more information about all of the High’s exhibitions, visit high.org.