George Washington University Galleries

Washington, DC




J.S.G. Boggs Regarding George Washington: The Transactional Image

December 9, 1999 - January 28, 2000


Typically, when the first president is the subject of an exhibition, the approach is historical, narrative and iconographic. In contrast, contemporary artist J.S.G. Boggs and The George Washington University Dimock Gallery wish to celebrate Washington's life by offering a semiotic, rather than a historical approach, to the figure of George Washington.

This groundbreaking exhibition puts Boggs in a curatorial role in which he explores the fascinating image of the most powerful and enduring subject of American portraiture. This is the first time that Boggs has accepted the invitation of creating an installation and curating a show that includes artifacts, and the Dimock Gallery is the first public space to invite Boggs to interpret George Washington's image.

Boggs' installation includes revisionist works by contemporary artists such as Ray Beldner, Barton Lidicé Benes, Michael Clark, David Greg Harth, Jon Karl Helm and Thomas Raymond Hipschen. These works will share the space with more traditional and idealized likenesses of George Washington drawn from The George Washington University Permanent Collection.

Boggs' interest in the likeness of George Washington is rooted in his own work, which explores the signs of circulation and currency by drawing paper money and using it to carry out transactions. This process involves the careful observation of George Washington's portrait because of its depiction on the $1 bill. In turn, Boggs' fascination with Washington's image, along with Boggs' capacity to pose questions, analyze and manipulate images, makes him the perfect candidate for the artist's approach to the figure of the Founding Father. (left: On Broadway (Dance Dollar), 1995, Private Collection, Larchmont, NY, © jsgboggs. Please click on image to enlarge it.)

Boggs' work is extensively represented in public collections such as the Museum of Modern Art, the British Museum, the National Museum of American Art and The Art Institute of Chicago. He is the subject of "Boggs: A Comedy of Values," a book by Lawrence Weschler, writer for The New Yorker. Numerous articles have featured Boggs in publications such as Art in America, Artforum, the New Art Examiner, The New York Times and the Washington Post.

Cira Pascual-Marquina, Assistant Curator at the Dimock Gallery, interprets the intent of artist J.S.G. Boggs as follows: "The image of George Washington has been incorporated into daily life to the extent that one can no longer grant it any specific attribute. In the semiotic view of signs and symbols, such vacuous images are said to become pure signifiers, i.e., symbols to which one can attach any meaning. Thus, the image of George Washington can be interpreted as a demigod, unconquerable and incorruptible, dignified and remote, a timeless ideal. He can also be seen as an ordinary man with weaknesses and strengths, flaws and passions, a reflection of the American egalitarian and democratic society. J.S.G. Boggs, who has been able to explore the signs of circulation and currency by carrying out controversial transactions with the paper money he draws, has long been fascinated by the lack of identity in the face on the one-dollar bill, and by the multiple and often contradictory meanings that are attached to the figure of George Washington. Boggs has long been engaged in curating the image of George Washington as his performances often involve a drawn representation of the first president."

The Dimock Gallery is located in the Lower Lobby of Lisner Auditorium at 730 21st Street, N.W. Hours are Tuesday through Friday, 10 am - 5 pm. Closed Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. Admission is free.


Editor's Note: In March of 2001, The George Washington University Art Gallery opened in the new Media & Public Affairs Building at 805 21st Street, NW. According to the University:

The Luther W. Brady Art Gallery, an educational gallery located on the second floor of the new Media and Public Affairs Building, is the professional showcase for art at GW. Six to eight exhibitions are featured each year and include University-related shows and Permanent Collection exhibitions; as well as shows of historical and contemporary significance, often with a focus on the Washington area. The gallery also administers the University's Permanent Collection, which includes important paintings, sculptures, graphics, textiles, ceramics, historic furnishings, and photographs. Through its varied schedule of temporary exhibits and special events, the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery contributes to the cultural life of Foggy Bottom.

The Dimock Gallery is an educational gallery which provides a professional setting for the display of art on The George Washington University campus. With the active support of Department of Fine Arts and Art History students, the Dimock Gallery's new mission provides for a "hands-on" experience for curating and presenting their creative endeavors. Ongoing student and faculty participation provides a forum for students to curate, display, and critique their creative efforts, and creates a learning environment in which students can organize exhibitions and learn about exhibition desigh with the advice of faculty and curators. From time to time, exhibitions will be staged in conjunction with Lisner Auditorium performances, such as Flamenco Festivals, other international collaborations, and academic programs.

rev. 4/9/04; URL updated 12/22/14

When Resource Library publishes over time more than one article concerning an institution, there is created as an additional resource for readers a sub-index page containing links to each Resource Library article or essay concerning that institution, plus available information on its location and other descriptive information.

Unless otherwise noted, all text and image materials relating to the above institutional source were provided by that source. Before reproducing or transmitting text or images please read Resource Library's user agreement.

Traditional Fine Arts Organization's catalogues provide many more useful resources:

Search Resource Library for thousands of articles and essays on American art.

Copyright 2014 Traditional Fine Arts Organization, Inc., an Arizona nonprofit corporation. All rights reserved.