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.
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.
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, www.high.org.