Past digital exhibition
WEST WING HA!
September 9, 2020

The quadrennial spectacle of the presidential campaign is one of the few shows playing around the country at the moment, and like most theatre it includes heroes and villains, backstage crews, directors, designers and critics, all playing for audiences everywhere. While Al Hirschfeld admitted he did not have the bile needed to be a political commentator, and preferred for writers to pick the good guys and the bad guys, for nine decades he drew virtually every president of his lifetime, and thanks to Broadway and Hollywood, he got to draw a few more.

Now for the first time, we have gathered 25 pieces that document Hirschfeld’s view of the Oval Office occupants from an early sculpture of Abraham Lincoln to a drawing of the popular television show The West Wing more than eighty years later. Hirschfeld drew the President and any challengers in good times and in bad times, in musicals and in dramas, and in thrillers and comedies. Hirschfeld’s presidential drawings earned him two private visits to the White House, artwork on an aircraft carrier, a copy of LBJ’s State of the Union address, and probably played a role is his receiving a National Medal of the Arts (awarded posthumously in 2003 at the White House). No matter what your party, join Hirschfeld on the campaign trail headed to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

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Past digital exhibition
LOST IN THE STARS
June 6, 2020 to August 8, 2020

Black actors, directors, composers, lyricists, playwrights, designers, and producers have long played a role in the American Theater despite the inherent racism on The Great White Way. From the start in the minstrel shows of the 19th century, Black artists have suffered underrepresentation both on and off stage in America. Modern Black theater on Broadway begins with the legendary Shuffle Along, a Black musical that literally set the template for Black musical comedies for a decade, and while Hirschfeld had yet to draw the theater when the show premiered in 1921, his first drawing of Black performers ever was of Miller and Lyles, the stars and book writers of Shuffle Along. Over the next nine decades, Hirschfeld would often draw Black theater makers in comedies, musicals, dramas, and revues. In fact, his first and last theater posters, covering more than 50 productions over sixty years were of Black performers.

The title of this exhibition comes from the musical of the same name that explored the racial injustices of the 20th century South Africa apartheid system. But it can also serve as a metaphor of the Black creative in a predominantly white theater world. Too often the contributions of Black artists have been minimized or co-opted, and the Al Hirschfeld Foundation wants to celebrate many of the Black stars in all disciplines that make the American Theater what it is today. In this online exhibition, we present 26 images from over 72 years, but there are many, many more. This will be the first of multiple exhibitions that will explore Black theater, film, dance, and music over the next year. We believe that BLACK LIVES MATTER. BLACK ART MATTERS. And BLACK THEATRE MATTERS.

David Leopold
Creative Director

We recognize that some drawings could be found offensive. Hirschfeld’s work is generally described as caricature, but the label is limiting. His art is not pejorative. His intent was not to poke fun at his subjects or perpetuate stereotypes, but rather it was a distillation and celebration of the performance. Exaggeration is used for emphasis so that the drawings, as one fellow artist said of Hirschfeld’s work, look more like the person than the person does.

 

Special thanks to Jon Luini and Chime Interactive; Todd Johnson, Jonathan Higginbotham, Keith Sherman, and Katherine Eastman.