Jac Lahav’s Portrait Series "The Great Americans" at Florence Griswold Museum

Jac Lahav’s Portrait Series "The Great Americans" at Florence Griswold Museum

Friday, March 1, 2019

KHN Alum (2006) Jac Lahav's "The Great Americans," a solo show including 32 large scale paintings and 10 new works, is open at the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme, CT. The show's work takes up the first two galleries. The third gallery features a show curated by Lahav. The show, which also won a grant from Connecticut Humanities (a state affiliate of National Endowment for the Humanities) is up until May 12, 2019.

About "The Great Americans"

Text Courtesy Florence Griswold Museum

Jac Lahav’s portrait series The Great Americans plays off of a 2005 Discovery Channel series that encouraged voters to select the country’s leading figures, past and present. In the contest, media personalities like Oprah Winfrey vied with scientists like Jonas Salk, with Winfrey ousting one of the inventors of the polio vaccine from the top ten. In the series, the artist explores the tension and competition between image and reputation, media fame and history. The larger-than-life portraits depict American icons in unexpected ways through dress and pose, often distorting bodies or altering costumes that we’ve come to see as synonymous with the image of figures like George Washington, for example.

Lahav is interested in the concept of layering—how individual and group identity are like an onion skin that we can peel away, but whose transparency allows the whole to assume a larger meaning than its parts. By assembling his own unconventional canon of Great Americans, Lahav exposes the clash of image and substance in our contemporary culture. Starting with figures represented in countless paintings and photos that have shaped our perceptions, some of which the artist incorporates into his compositions, Lahav asks what we can know about people from their portraits. As a further meditation on art’s role in the formation of these perceptions in American culture, Lahav will mine the museum’s permanent collection in a companion exhibition. Lahav lives in Lyme, CT. Exhibitions of his work have appeared or will appear at the Richmond Art Museum, the Saginaw Museum of Art, in Michigan, and the LongView Museum of Fine Art in Texas.