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The Mask of Cool: Jazz, Film Noir, and Existentialism in Postwar America
Joel Dinerstein, Tulane University
Grant details: https://securegrants.neh.gov/publicquery/main.aspx?f=1&gn=FT-58154-10
American Cool (Exhibition)
Title: American Cool
Curator: Joel Dinerstein
Curator: Frank Goodyear
Abstract: American Cool is a photography, popular culture, and American Studies exhibit that explores the key vernacular concept of "cool" from its origins in African-American jazz culture to its current ubiquity in advertising and media. American Cool is embodied by one hundred icons as captured by fine art photographers from Carl Van Vechten to Annie Leibovitz. Since the 1950s, the term and concept of cool has been intrinsic to any understanding of American culture through the idea of cultural rebellion. Joel Dinerstein provides a theory of cool, explores its origins in the postwar era, then analyzes its three generational shifts in the '60s, the '80s, and into the present. For each of the one hundred subjects -- such as Miles Davis, James Dean, Deborah Harry, or Missy Elliott -- there is a short biography that expressly captures each icon's generational appeal and cultural legacy. The Washington Post called the exhibit "an entertaining and insightful exhibition that confronts one of the most dynamic and hard to define concepts in American cultural life," while the New York Times called it "the kind of exhibition many people will find irresistible…being cool assumes authenticity and integrity yet it is also the ultimate performance art."
Primary URL: http://npg.si.edu/exhibit/Cool/
Primary URL Description: This is the homepage for the American Cool exhibit at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery. It was open from February 7 - September 7, 2014, and reviewed in all major media outlets (e.g., NY Times, Washington Post, BBC World News, Bloomberg).