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Area arts centers continue Leonard Bernstein’s 100th birthday celebration

AFI Silver will have a sing-along screening of the musical “West Side Story” on Sept. 2, as part of the Leonard Bernstein centennial birthday celebration. COURTESY PHOTO  AFI Silver will have a sing-along screening of the musical “West Side Story” on Sept. 2, as part of the Leonard Bernstein centennial birthday celebration. COURTESY PHOTO  There may not be a bouncing ball, but the upcoming presentation of the movie “West Side Story” at the AFI Silver will include lyrics to the songs in subtitles on screen. At which point, audience members will be invited to sing along.

The screening is part of a centennial celebration of the birth of Leonard Bernstein – composer, conductor, pianist, author, music lecturer, and teacher – born on August 25, 1918, said Todd Hitchcock, AFI Silver’s director of programming.

“West Side Story” and two other films to which Bernstein contributed the music are the American Film Institute’s contribution to the celebration. One is “On the Waterfront,” a dark drama about a stevedore who confronts the mobster who rules the docks, starring Marlon Brando; the other is the film version of the Broadway musical “On the Town,” about three sailors who find love while on leave in New York.

AFI is one of many arts organizations in the D.C. area presenting concerts, stage shows, and other events to pay tribute to Bernstein, who died on Oct. 14, 1990. A longtime conductor of the New York Philharmonic, Bernstein was considered by many to be one of the most versatile musicians.

Through such programs as “Omnibus” and “Young People’s Concerts,” Bernstein reached out to youthful audiences and others who wanted to be educated in classical music – although he subscribed to the notion that “there are only two kinds of music – good music and bad music.” He also wrote works that fit into or crossed several genres.

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Silhouettes are an outline of an ancient art form renewed

Partially three-dimensional maypole dance by a contemporary artist is a part of an exhibit on silhouettes currently featured at the National Portrait Gallery. COURTESY PHOTOPartially three-dimensional maypole dance by a contemporary artist is a part of an exhibit on silhouettes currently featured at the National Portrait Gallery. COURTESY PHOTO  Silhouettes have been around since ancient times – think of those shadowy figures on Grecian urns.

But it was in the 19th century that the art form of cut-paper profiles took on new life. “They were a hugely popular and democratizing form of portraiture, offering virtually instantaneous likenesses of everyone,” said Asma Naeem, curator of an exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery devoted to silhouettes.

“Black Out: Silhouettes Then and Now” reveals the complexities of an art form that was once ubiquitous but is little known today, Naeem added.

The exhibit explores the historical roots of silhouettes and contemporary iterations.

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Exhibit pays tribute to laborers with extraordinary art

Woman Cleaning Shower“Woman Cleaning Shower” by Ramiro Gomez from National Portrait Gallery exhibit on work. COURTESY PHOTO  “The Sweat of their Face: Portraying American Workers,” an exhibit on view at the National Portrait Gallery, contains well-known, even iconic, images.

These include “Power House Mechanic,” a black-and-white photograph by Lewis Hine; “The Miner,” an oil painting by Pat Lyon; “American Gothic,” by Gordon Parks, oil on beaver wood; “Mine America’s Coal,” by Norman Rockwell, “Cotton Pickers,” oil, by Winslow Homer, and “Migrant Mother,” a print by Dorothea Lange.

Other images are less known and even surprising, such as daguerreotypes by Joseph T. Zealy of semi-dressed slaves. Richard Avedon, best known for his work with celebrities and fashion icons, portrays migrant workers in a series of photographs.

But co-curators Dorothy Moss and David C. Ward are hoping that regardless of the individual images, viewers understand the exhibit’s goal.

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“America’s Presidents” exhibit reopens at National Portrait Gallery

NPG George Washington PortraitA George Washington portrait is among the many works of art on display in the "America's Presidents" exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery. COURTESY PHOTO  The “America’s Presidents” exhibition at Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery is more than about portraits.

There’s historical context. The Gallery has grouped the portraits into six historical chapters, each with its own explanatory text. Five of these revolve around a particular era, each with one U.S. President anchoring it – George Washington, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

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Plath and Dietrich take a new turn in the limelight

Marlene DietrichMarlene Dietrich. COURTESY PHOTO  The two women couldn’t have been more different.

Marlene Dietrich was an internationally known movie star who radiated sexual magnetism. She was also unapologetically androgynous and bisexual, at a time neither was openly accepted. A married woman whose list of lovers seemed endless, Dietrich was defeated only by aging, which made a dent in her prodigious selfconfidence.

Sylvia Plath was a shy but influential poet and novelist. While she captured the public imagination of other artists and lovers of her art forms and won a Pulitzer Prize, she never became the household name Dietrich was. Plath is also known for her turbulent relationship with husband and fellow poet Ted Hughes. After several bouts of depression and suicide attempts (possibly due to bipolar disorder), Plath took her own life at the age of 30.

Dietrich and Plath are now posthumously “sharing the same space,” in exhibitions dedicated to them at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery.

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Center Stage: Bill Viola’s art slows time to create mindful contemplation

Bill Violas The Fall into ParadisePerformers John Hay and Sarah Steben take part in Bill Viola's video art piece "The Fall into Paradise," part of his exhibit "The Moving Portrait" now featured at the National Portrait Gallery. COURTESY PHOTO

WASHINGTON D.C. — Moving pictures meet portraiture. Video, a popular media form used for almost any purpose, is rarely utilized for slow, perceptual contemplation often achieved in paintings or music.

Bill Viola’s work “The Moving Portrait” does exactly that. His work is more akin to portraiture rather than narrative stories often seen in video. His work focuses on facial language and slow-motion to allow a calmer, meditative attention to his footage.

These videos focus on the physical actions of his subjects rather than the promise of a narrative climax or conclusion to maintain interest. Examples include “The Raft”, a high-definition video projection of nineteen people suddenly hit by a high-pressure stream of water.

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Center Stage: National Portrait Gallery is blowing in the wind with Bob Dylan

Bob DylanPhoto of Nobel Prize-winning artist Bob Dylan that was featured in The National Portrait Gallery. COURTESY PHOTO

WASHINGTON – The National Portrait Gallery recently wrapped up a display in its “Celebrate” exhibit of musician Bob Dylan, recognizing the famous songwriter being awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature.

The “Celebrate” exhibit features photos of many different celebrities.

“One of the things we’re really pleased with is that we’re recognizing people who have achieved recent accomplishments as well as people who have sadly recently passed away,” said Senior Historian David Ward.

The Smithsonian acquired the photo of Dylan in 1996. The description noted “the Nobel Prize Committee broke precedent” by awarding the songwriter a literature prize.

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