Bey, Neel, Kollwitz, Hockney in Cornell Fine Arts Museum portraits show

Portraits from many of Modern and Contemporary art’s biggest names fill the Cornell Fine Arts Museum at Rollins College just outside Orlando, Florida during its exhibition, “Multiple Voices/Multiple Stories.” On view through August 29th and drawn entirely from the museum’s permanent collection, David Hockney, Alice Neel, Dawoud Bey, Yinka Shonibare and Käthe Kollwitz are joined by Old Master paintings examining how stories and interactions can be created between works.

Included in the 37-piece Cornell Fine Arts Museum portraits show is Hockney’s Joe with Green Window, capturing the artist’s friend who was the first person Hockney knew to die from AIDS. The intensity of the man’s gaze as he looks out in the viewer’s direction is a moving testament of our capacity to love and connect with others.

An example from Bey’s famed The Birmingham Project series (commemorating the 50th anniversary of the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham) is displayed in close proximity to a portrait of poet Amanda S. Gorman – the young poet who stole the show at the Biden presidential inauguration – photographed by Shawn Theodore. In Theodore’s photograph, Gorman appears in profile in a striking image that asserts beauty, strength and courage. Gorman is a reminder of what the young girls killed in the church explosion could have become; the works link the past and the present and remind us that we are all responsible and we all play a part in our world.

Any opportunity to experience the heartache Kollwitz pours into her images shouldn’t be missed. The example here, Portrait of a Working Woman with Blue Shawl, exemplifies the loss and longing visited upon the artist. With Kollwitz, no matter the subject, every piece seems to be part self-portrait.

Alice Neel’s sensational exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art this year upended the history of 20th century portraiture, placing her now firmly at its center. She’s here too.

As is Elizabeth Cattlett, a matriarch for Black female artists. Jordan Casteel, following in her giant footsteps, has work displayed in the show as well.

Numerous paintings in the exhibition predate the 20th century, some going all the way back to the 1400s, but where this presentation shines is with the Modern and Contemporary examples from artists essential to those movements.

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