National Portrait Gallery
8th and G Streets, NW
Featuring 61 pieces from the late 19th century to the present, this exhibition demonstrates how posters function as portraiture. Subjects as diverse as General Pershing, "Buffalo Bill" Cody, Joe Louis, Judy Garland, aviator Jimmy Doolittle, and labor leader Lane Kirkland all enhance the poster's mission to attract attention and persuade. Dramatic, colorful, and often enormous, these likenesses hardly seem subtle. But what a poster communicates about an individual is usually secondary to its principal message—selling war bonds, announcing the arrival of the circus, advertising a product, or publicizing a concert or film. Posters invariably project the public image, enhancing, promoting, exploiting, or upgrading the information we subconsciously absorb about celebrity figures.