James Dean 1931–1955  Roy Schatt (1909–2002)  Gelatin silver print, 1954

James Dean, 1931-1955 / Roy Schatt (1909–2002) / Gelatin silver print, 1954 / National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Mr. and Mrs. Roy Schatt / © Roy Schatt

American Cool

February 7, 2014 - September 7, 2014

What do we mean when we say someone is cool? To be cool means to exude the aura of something new and uncontainable. Cool is the opposite of innocence or virtue. Someone cool has a charismatic edge and a dark side. Cool is an earned form of individuality.

Each generation has certain individuals who bring innovation and style to a field of endeavor while projecting a certain charismatic self-possession. They are the figures selected for this exhibition: the successful rebels of American culture.

  • American Cool

    View of "American Cool." Photo by Mark Gulezian. 

  • American Cool

    View of "American Cool." Photo by Mark Gulezian. 

  • American Cool

    View of "American Cool." Photo by Mark Gulezian. 

  • American Cool

    View of "American Cool." Photo by Mark Gulezian.