Painting of a young soldier in helmet and fatigues in the midst of battle

John / Vincent Valdez (born 1977) / Oil on canvas, 2010-2012 / Collection of the artist, © Vincent Valdez

The Face of Battle: Americans at War, 9/11 to Now

April 7, 2017 - January 28, 2018
First floor

Since September 11, 2001, the United States has been engaged in multiple wars, varying in intensity, locale, and consequence.  After fifteen years, this warfare has become normalized into our social and cultural landscape; it is ongoing, yet somehow out of sight, invisible.

The Face of Battle: Americans at War, 9/11 to Now explores and assesses the human costs of ongoing wars through portraiture. The exhibition title is drawn from John Keegan’s classic military history, which reorients our view of war from questions of strategy and tactics to its personal and individual toll. Featuring fifty-six works by six artists, the exhibition includes photographs by Ashley Gilbertson, Tim Hetherington, Louie Palu, and Stacy Pearsall; site-specific installation of drawings by Emily Prince; and paintings, sculpture, and time-based media by Vincent Valdez.

With this poignant exhibition, the National Portrait Gallery will put a face on recent wars through the work of artists who have pictured the experience of common soldiers. The Face of Battle will also bring to public attention the latest formal developments in the field of portraiture as practiced by a diverse and talented group of artists. The exhibition will place the focus on the identity and experiences of ordinary soldiers who fought and continue to fight for our nation.

  • Young soldier reading on a cot

    The Reader / Stacy L. Pearsall (born 1980) / Aluminum print, 2007 / Courtesy of the artist

  • Young military woman with her male comrades in a bunker

    One of the Boys / Stacy L. Pearsall (born 1980) / Aluminum print, 2007 / Courtesy of the artist

  • Young soldier in battle fatigues and his dog

    Dynamic Duo / Stacy L. Pearsall (born 1980) / 2007, Aluminum print / Courtesy of the artist

  • Black and white photo of a soldier's small home

    Home / Vincent Valdez (born 1977) / DVD, 9 minutes, color / Time-based media (9 min), 2012 / Collection of the artist, © Vincent Valdez

  • Photo of a folded flag in an enclosed case

    Black Flag / Vincent Valdez (born 1977) / Lithographic crayon on folded canvas, in a glass box, 2012 / Elisabeth and Alex Tynberg, Austin, TX, © Vincent Valdez

  • Image of a soldier's bedroom back home

    Brandon Craig / Ashley Gilbertson (born 1978) / 2010 (printed 2017), Pigment print / Ashley Gilbertson/VII Photo, ©Ashley Gilbertson/VII Photo

  • Karina Lau / Ashley Gilbertson (born 1978) / 2009 (printed 2017), Pigment print / Ashley Gilbertson/VII Photo, ©Ashley Gilbertson/VII Photo

  • Individual drawn portraits of young soldiers who were killed in battle

    American Servicemen and Women Who Have Died in Iraq and Afghanistan (But Not Including the Wounded, Nor the Iraqis nor the Afghanis) [details] / Emily Prince (born 1981) / 2009-2012, Pencil on paper / Emily Prince, © Emily Prince

  • Young soldier asleep on a cot

    Afghanistan, Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, July 2008. Specialist Steve Kim. Sleeping Soldier / Tim Hetherington (1970-2011) / Pigmented inkjet print, July 2008 (printed 2016) / Courtesy Tim Hetherington Trust, © Tim Hetherington

  • Afghanistan, Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, June 2008. “Man Eden” Men from the 2nd Platoon dig earth for sandbags / Tim Hetherington (1970-2011) / June 2008 (printed 2016), Pigmented inkjet print / Courtesy Tim Hetherington Trust, © Tim Hetherington

  • Afghanistan, Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, 2008. On Patrol /  Tim Hetherington (1970-2011) / 2008 (printed 2016), pigmented inkjet print / Courtesy Tim Hetherington Trust, © Tim Hetherington

  • black and white photo of a young soldier in fatigues and helmut in the midst of battle

    U.S. Army Spc. Larry Bowen age 26, sits shell shocked in a ditch next to his machine gun after a frontal assault on an insurgent position. Siah Choy, Zhari District, Kandahar, Afghanistan. The Fighting Season series. | Louie Palu (born 1968)  |  2009, Pigment print | Collection of the artist | © Louie Palu

  • Black and white photo of a young African American soldier in a helmut

    U.S. Marine Cpl. Philip Pepper age 22. Forward Operating Base Dwyer, Garmsir District, Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Philip is from Tallahasse FL and has done two tours of Iraq in addition to this tour. Garmsir Marines series. |  Louie Palu (born 1968) |  2008, Pigment print | Collection of the artist | © Louie Palu

  • Female heliocopter pilot in fatigues and large helmut

    Sgt. 1st Class Linda Carter age 41, a helicopter Crew Chief with the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, Kandahar Airfield, Kandahar,
    Afghanistan. Linda is from Beliot, Ohio and this is her second combat deployment including one previous deployment to Iraq. The Fighting Season series
    by Louie Palu (born 1968)  | 2010, Pigment print | Collection of the artist | © Louie Palu