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Perception and Portrayal of the Presidents – From “Portraits to Tweets”

From Gilbert Stuart’s portrait of George Washington and Robert Rauschenberg’s print of John F. Kennedy to contemporary tweets about President Obama, it is clear that time and technology have impacted public perception of the American presidency. Changing views and changing artistic mediums are the subject of the new Hofstra University Museum (HUM) exhibition, From Portraits to Tweets: Imagery, Technology and the U.S. Presidency, February 3-May 8, 2015, at Emily Lowe Gallery, South Campus.

Alex Guofeng Cao (1969); "Lincoln vs. Obama," (2009) Chromogenic print with Dibond Plexiglas Courtesy of the artist.
Alex Guofeng Cao (1969); “Lincoln vs. Obama,” (2009)
Chromogenic print with Dibond Plexiglas
Courtesy of the artist.

“Early U.S. presidents tightly controlled their image,” says Beth E. Levinthal, Executive Director of the Hofstra University Museum. “As new technologies and artistic media ushered in an age of accessibility, Americans have changed how they see and perceive the presidency. This exhibition takes us from the early days of our republic to the contemporary scene where even Twitter and Facebook play a role in our perceptions of the presidency.”

From Portraits to Tweets will be on display at the same time the Hofstra Cultural Center presents its 12th Presidential Conference on George W. Bush, March 24-26, 2015. Beginning in 1982 with FDR: The Man, The Myth, The Era: 1882-1945, this renowned series of Hofstra conferences has brought together scholars from a wide variety of fields, journalists, former government officials and in some cases the former Presidents themselves to discuss the policies and issues of the various presidencies.

With regard to Portraits to Tweets, Ms. Levinthal adds, “We thank the NYCB Foundation and NYSCA for their support of this exhibition.” Additional funding has been provided by the New York Community Bank Foundation. This exhibition is made possible with funding from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

An opening reception for From Portraits to Tweets will take place on Thursday, February 12, 2015 at 4 p.m. at Emily Lowe Gallery. An illustrated full-color catalog accompanies the exhibit, as do in-gallery interpretive materials, including an interactive touch screen kiosk with supplemental material examining the artistic methods and processes and a free Art Caper activity for children and families.

Nixon Ping Pong Paddle, 1972 Ink on paper, rubber and wood, Hofstra University Libraries, Special Collections
Nixon Ping Pong Paddle, 1972
Ink on paper, rubber and wood, Hofstra University Libraries, Special Collections

A second presidential-themed exhibition, The George W. Bush Presidency: Points of Perspective, also developed by the HUM, will be on view February 23-April 10, 2015 at the David Filderman Gallery, 9th floor, Axinn Library, South Campus. This will feature works of art, documents, photographs, and objects focusing on the 2000 Election, September 11, 2001, The War on Terror, Afghanistan and Iraq, Hurricane Katrina, the 2008 Economic Crisis, Social Security Reform, and AIDS and Malaria Initiatives in Africa – events and actions that required George W. Bush administration responses and decisions.  Additional funding for this exhibition has been provided by Astoria Bank.

Public programming includes a Friday, February 20, 2-3 p.m. session of the Museum’s popular lecture series Bethpage Federal Credit Union Global Explorations, examining global portraiture. The cost is $5 for general admission and $3 for seniors. Second Saturdays at the HUM: Voice It!, for children and families will explore works in the exhibition and encourage children to create their own campaign posters on Saturday, March 14 from 1:30- 2:30 p.m. in Emily Lowe Gallery. The fee is $5 per child.

For more information about this exhibit and associated public programs please call (516) 463-5672.

The Hofstra University Museum has been awarded the highest honor a museum can receive, continued accreditation by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM). Approximately 4% of museums nationwide have earned this distinguished recognition. Accreditation certifies that the Hofstra University Museum operates according to professional standards, manages its collections responsibly and provides quality service to the public.


Top image: Gilbert Stuart (1775-1828); Richard’s Portrait of George Washington, 1805-1815; Museum Purchase by contributions from the community and friends of Syracuse and Onandaga County as a tribute to the American Bicentennial, PC 76.35. Image courtesy of the Everson Museum of Art.

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