The Outwin 2019: American Portraiture Today presents nearly 50 portraits that were selected through an open call that garnered more than 2,600 entries from artists working across the United States and Puerto Rico. For the first time in the triennial’s history, the museum specifically asked that submissions respond “to the current political and social context,” and this resulting presentation offers perspectives on some of today’s most pressing issues.
The selected finalists create portraits in a wide range of media—painting, drawing, photography, sculpture, time-based media art, installation, and performance—but all are keenly aware of portraiture’s potential to insist on the presence, and importance, of every human being. This year’s Outwin aims to advance the art of portraiture for future generations while encouraging visitors to empathize and locate meaningful connections.
First-prize was awarded to artist Hugo Crosthwaite, the first Latinx artist to receive this prestigious award since the national competition was founded in 2006. His prize-winning stop-motion drawing animation, “A Portrait of Berenice Sarmiento Chávez” (2018), recounts a woman’s journey from Tijuana, Mexico, to the United States in pursuit of the American dream.
As winner of the first prize, Crosthwaite, a resident of San Diego, will receive $25,000 and a commission to create a portrait of a living individual for the museum’s permanent collection. Previous first-prize winners are David Lenz (2006), Dave Woody (2009), Bo Gehring (2013) and Amy Sherald (2016). Second prize was awarded to Sam Comen of Los Angeles, who submitted the photograph “Jesus Sera, Dishwasher” (2018). Third prize, a tie, was awarded to both Richard Greene of Los Angeles for his photograph “Monroe, LA” (2016) and Wayde McIntosh of Brooklyn, New York, for his painting “Legacy” (2017). This year’s commended artists are Natalia García Clark of Los Angeles and Mexico City for her video “Self-Portrait” (2017); Lauren Hare of Portland, Oregon, for her photograph “Secrets” (2017); and Adrian Octavius Walker of Oakland, California, for his photograph “Black Virgin Mary” (2018).
One exhibiting artist will also win the People’s Choice Award, which will be announced in May 2020. In this part of the competition, visitors to the exhibition, both at the museum and online, will be able to cast a vote for their favorite finalists.
“The Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition was founded to support the next wave of contemporary portraiture in the United States,” said Kim Sajet, director of the National Portrait Gallery. “The diversity of this edition’s entries, from geographic origin to subject matter, reflects the multifaceted story of contemporary America. Topics range from stories of migration to the celebration of urban youth culture. The exhibition promises to pay close attention to the LGBTQ community, American workers and those facing injustice because of their race or immigration status. The selected artworks attest to the relevance of portraiture today as a powerful affirmation of the human experience.”
Jurors for the competition’s fifth edition are Byron Kim, artist and senior critic at the Yale School of Art; Harry Gamboa Jr., artist, writer and faculty member at the California Institute of the Arts; Lauren Haynes, curator of contemporary art at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art; and Jefferson Pinder, artist and professor of sculpture and contemporary practices at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. The National Portrait Gallery’s Brandon Brame Fortune, chief curator; Dorothy Moss, curator of painting and sculpture and performance art; and Taína Caragol, curator of painting and sculpture and Latino art and history, also served on the committee.
Moss is the director of the 2019 Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition and is co-curating the exhibition “The Outwin 2019: American Portraiture Today” with Caragol. The exhibition will travel to the Michele and Donald D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts in Springfield, MA (October 3, 2020 - April 4, 2021) and then to the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum in St. Louis, MO (September 10, 2021 - January 23, 2022).
The Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition is made possible by the Virginia Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition Endowment, established by Virginia Outwin Boochever and continued by her children.
The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery tells the multifaceted story of the United States through the individuals who have shaped American culture. Spanning the visual arts, performing arts and new media, the Portrait Gallery portrays poets and presidents, visionaries and villains, actors and activists, whose lives tell the American story.
Outwin 2019 interview with winner Hugo Crosthwaite published by the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery.
A Portrait of Berenice Sarmiento Chávez, 2018
Stop-motion drawing animation
Currently on view in the group exhibition The Outwin 2019: American Portraiture Today at the National Portrait Gallery until August 2020.
Courtesy of the artist and Luis De Jesus Los Angeles.