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PHOTOS: First look at ‘The Portrait Unbound,’ photos by Robert Weingarten, at High Museum January 23-May 30


Maggie Adams of Suwanee and Nathan Sublett of Sugar Hill inside the High Museum of Art's new exhibition of portraits by Robert Weingarten, "The Portrait Unbound." The portrait before them: Sandra Day O'Connor. AJC photos by Jamie Gumbrecht

You can almost make a game of your walk through “The Portrait Unbound,” a new exhibition of portraits at the High Museum of Art that opens Jan. 23.

What do a red wagon and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial have in common? Colin Powell.

An American flag, an old airplane, a spacecraft? Buzz Aldrin.

A silhouette from “The Color Purple” and a line of Grammys? Quincy Jones.

The digital images, photographed, layered and manipulated by California artist Robert Weingarten, are his answer to the question of whether you can make a portrait of a person without using their image. He signed on high-profile subjects — Mikhail Baryshnikov, Jane Goodall, Billy Graham, Sandra Day O’Connor, Steven Sondheim — and asked for a list of objects that represent them. Some returned with notes in messy scrawl, others in tidy type on official letterhead. Weingarten photographed the items, reserved the right to remove some, promised not to add more without asking and manipulated the images he wound up with.

A video inside the gallery shows the artist at work on a portrait of Hank Aaron, shooting all around the Braves baseball legend, but not the man himself.


Weingarten's portrait of Hank Aaron.

The exhibition features 21 large-scale photos, all prints that you can examine up close. You’ll miss a few elements of the images on the first look, and on the second, you’ll wonder why you didn’t see them right away. Wait till the end to read the text on the wall — just look at the image and see where it takes you.

You can’t help but wonder what your own portrait would look like, what objects, places and words would represent you without showing your or anybody you love. You can make a game of that, too.


Ann Markowitz of Atlanta before portraits of Alvin Toffler, Colin Powell and Buzz Aldrin.

Want to go? Jan. 23-May 30. $18, $15 for people 65 and older and students, $11 for ages 6-17, free for members and children 5 and younger. High Museum of Art, 1280 Peachtree St., Atlanta. 404-733-4444,

5 comments Add your comment


May 24th, 2010
2:30 pm

I live in Phoenix otherwise I’d totally go, plus it’s over this weekend. Wish I would have known earlier the trip would have been worth it, plus I’ve never been to Atlanta. Luckily there is an exhibit at Phoenix Art Museum featuring some Robert Weingarten pieces and other great photographers.

Diane Connor

January 30th, 2010
10:53 am

If this is a blog entry about art, why did Jamie Gumbrecht write about the “game” of learning about famous figures? Would these images stand-up to the scrutiny of art critics if the collages were not of famous people? Can this even be called photography when almost none of the material in the Aldrin piece is original Robert Weingarten photography? In the Chuck Close piece the main subject is a painting by Vermeer and it is Vermeer’s art that pulls us in. Weingarten is gaining fame by association with fame and it is a pattern in his work that can be seen in his palette series, portrait series and Jackson Pollock series. This is a savvy marketing ploy but it is not art.

Lynne Williams

January 29th, 2010
3:26 pm

Great exhibit–don’t miss it. Since the subjects of each portrait selected the symbols and object to represent them you learn so much about how they view themselves and the creative process of putting them all together into the portrait is also facinating.


January 23rd, 2010
9:54 pm

[...] Art: “Robert Weingarten: The Portrait Unbound” opens, 10 a.m., High Museum of Art, Atlanta. Photos. [...]