奥巴马夫妇的肖像画有何与众不同?

Portraits or Politics? Both Presidential Likenesses Blend Fact and Fiction

编辑:给力英语新闻 更新:2018年2月13日 作者:纽约时报(By HOLLAND COTTER)

克辛代·威利将奥巴马置于一个充满绿色植物的背景之中。绿植上开出的花朵具有象征意义;谢拉尔德创作的米歇尔·奥巴马的画像则强调了华服元素(由米歇尔·史密斯设计的裙装)和一种坚如磐石的冷静。
克辛代·威利将奥巴马置于一个充满绿色植物的背景之中。绿植上开出的花朵具有象征意义;谢拉尔德创作的米歇尔·奥巴马的画像则强调了华服元素(由米歇尔·史密斯设计的裙装)和一种坚如磐石的冷静。
Kehinde Wiley has set Mr. Obama against greenery, with flowers that have symbolic meaning. Amy Sherald’s take on Mrs. Obama emphasizes an element of couturial spectacle and rock-solid cool. Credit Left, Kehinde Wiley; right, Amy Sherald

WASHINGTON — With the unveiling here Monday at the National Portrait Gallery of the official presidential likenesses of Barack Obama and the former first lady, Michelle Obama, this city of myriad monuments gets a couple of new ones, each radiating, in its different way, gravitas (his) and glam (hers).

华盛顿——周一,贝拉克·奥巴马(Barack Obama)和前第一夫人米歇尔·奥巴马(Michelle Obama)的官方肖像在美国国家肖像馆(National Portrait Gallery)揭幕,这座拥有无数纪念像的城市又增添了两道新亮点。两幅画像各自以不同的方式散发着(他的)庄严和(她的)魅力。

Ordinarily, the event would pass barely noticed in the worlds of politics and art. Yes, the Portrait Gallery, part of the Smithsonian Institution, owns the only readily accessible complete collection of presidential likenesses. But recently commissioned additions to the collection have been so undistinguished that the tradition of installing a new portrait after a leader has left office is now little more than ceremonial routine.

通常情况下,这件事几乎不会在政界和艺术界引起注意。诚然,隶属于史密森尼学会(Smithsonian Institution)的肖像馆拥有唯一一套较易看到的总统肖像全集。然而,最近接受委托创作的总统肖像太过平淡无奇,以至在领导人离任后安放新肖像的传统几乎成了礼仪性的例行公事。

The present debut is strikingly different. Not only are the Obamas the first African-American presidential couple to be enshrined in the collection. The painters they’ve picked to portray them — Kehinde Wiley, for Barack Obama’s portrait; Amy Sherald, for Michelle Obama — are African-American as well. Both artists have addressed the politics of race consistently in their past work, and both have done so in subtly savvy ways in these new commissions. Wiley depicts Barack Obama not as a self-assured, standard-issue bureaucrat, but as an alert and troubled thinker. Sherald’s image of Michelle Obama overemphasizes an element of couturial spectacle, but also projects a rock-solid cool.

但当前这场揭幕仪式截然不同。奥巴马夫妇不仅是进入该系列的第一对非裔美国总统夫妇。他们挑选的画家——创作贝拉克·奥巴马画像的克辛代·威利(Kehinde Wiley)和创作米歇尔·奥巴马画像的埃米·谢拉尔德(Amy Sherald)——也是非裔美国人。在过去的作品中,种族政治一直是两人关注的问题。在这两幅新作品中,两人再次以巧妙高超的方式这么做了。威利画笔下的贝拉克·奥巴马不是自信、典型的官僚,而是一个机警、面临很多问题的思考者。谢拉尔德创作的米歇尔·奥巴马画像过分强调了华服元素,但也展现出了一种坚如磐石的冷静。

It doesn’t take #BlackLivesMatter consciousness to see the significance of this racial lineup within the national story as told by the Portrait Gallery. Some of the earliest presidents represented — George Washington, Thomas Jefferson — were slaveholders; Michelle Obama’s great-great grandparents were slaves. And today we’re seeing more and more evidence that the social gains of the civil rights, and Black Power, and Obama eras are, with a vengeance, being rolled back.

即使没有 #BlackLivesMatter(黑人命也是命)意识也能注意到,这一种族阵容在肖像馆讲述的国家故事里的重要意义。最早的一些画像代表的总统——乔治·华盛顿(George Washington)和托马斯·杰斐逊(Thomas Jefferson)——是奴隶主,米歇尔·奥巴马的曾曾祖父母是奴隶。并且,如今我们看到越来越多的证据表明,公民权利、黑人权力和奥巴马时代的社会进步正在出人意料地倒退。

On several levels, then, the Obama portraits stand out in this institutional context, though given the tone of bland propriety that prevails in the museum’s long-term “America’s Presidents” display — where Barack Obama’s (though not Michelle Obama’s) portrait hangs — standing out is not all that hard to do.

但在这种制度背景下,奥巴马夫妇的画像在多个层面上独树一帜,尽管考虑到该博物馆常年举办的“美国总统”展——贝拉克·奥巴马的画像将收入其中(不过米歇尔·奥巴马的画像不会参与该展)——盛行乏味的得体格调,要想独具一格并没有那么难。

The National Portrait Gallery collection isn’t old. It was created by an Act of Congress in 1962 and opened to the public in 1968. (The Obama unveiling is billed as part of its 50th birthday celebrations.) By the time it began collecting, many chief executive portraits of note were already housed elsewhere. (The collection of first lady portraits is still incomplete; commissioning new ones started only in 2006.)

国家肖像馆的总统肖像系列历史并不悠久。它根据1962年的一项国会法案(Act of Congress)创立,1968年向公众开放。(奥巴马的肖像揭幕仪式被宣传为创办50周年庆典的一部分。)到它开始收集肖像时,很多著名的总统肖像已经被安放在了别处。(第一夫人肖像系列仍不完整,委托重新创作的工作2006年才开始。)

There are, for sure, outstanding things, one being Gilbert Stuart’s so-called “Lansdowne” portrait of George Washington from 1796, a full-length likeness packed with executive paraphernalia: papers to be signed, multiple quill pens, a sword, and an Imperial Roman-style chair. Even the clothes are an 18th-century version of current POTUS style: basic black suit and fat tie. As for Washington, he stands blank-faced, one arm extended, like a tenor taking a dignified bow.

当然有杰出的作品,其中之一便是吉尔伯特·斯图尔特(Gilbert Stuart)在1796年创作的乔治·华盛顿全身肖像《兰斯多恩》(Lansdowne),画像中满是政务用品:待签署的文件、几支羽管笔、一把剑和一把罗马帝国风格的椅子。连衣服都是当下POTUS风(总统风)的十八世纪版:基础款的黑色套装和宽领带。华盛顿本人面无表情地站立着,一只胳膊伸开,犹如正在庄重鞠躬的男高音歌手。

Uninflected dignity was the attitude of choice for well over a century, with a few breaks. In an 1836 portrait, Andrew Jackson, a demonstrative bully, sports a floor-length, red-silk-lined Dracula cloak and a kind of topiary bouffant. (A picture of Jackson, one of President Donald Trump’s populist heroes, hangs in the Oval Office.) Abraham Lincoln, seen in several likenesses, is exceptional for looking as if he may actually have weighty matters on his mind. Most of the portraits that precede and follow his are pure PR.

在一个多世纪里,不动声色的威严一直是首选的姿态。在1836年的一幅肖像中,安德鲁·杰克逊(Andrew Jackson),一个确凿无疑的恶棍,披着一件及地的红色丝质衬里德古拉式(Dracula)披风,顶着一头造型剪树般的蓬松发型。(杰克逊是唐纳德·特朗普总统的民粹主义英雄之一,椭圆形办公室里就挂着一幅杰克逊画像。)在好几幅画像中,亚伯拉罕·林肯(Abraham Lincoln)都与众不同,因为他看上去像是正在思考重要的事情。在他之前和之后的大部分画像都是纯粹的公关。

In an imposingly scaled painting — just over 7 feet tall — the artist presents Barack Obama dressed in the regulation black suit and an open-necked white shirt, and seated on a vaguely thronelike chair not so different from the one seen in Stuart’s Washington portrait. But art historical references stop there. So do tonal echoes of past portraits. Whereas Obama’s predecessors are, to the man, shown expressionless and composed, Obama sits tensely forward, frowning, elbows on his knees, arms crossed, as if listening hard. No smiles, no Mr. Nice Guy. He’s still troubleshooting, still in the game.

在略高于七英尺(约合2.1米)的巨幅画像中,贝拉克·奥巴马身穿黑色正装和开领白衬衫,坐在一把有点像王位的椅子上。这把椅子和斯图尔特在华盛顿的画像中画的那把椅子没有太大的不同。但在艺术上对历史的致敬止步于此,在风格上和过去的肖像的相似之处同样止步于此。奥巴马的前任们在画像中表现得面无表情、沉着冷静,奥巴马却是紧张地坐着,身体前倾,眉头紧蹙,双肘支在膝盖上,双臂交叉,仿佛在认真倾听。没有微笑,不是个老好人。他还在解决问题,还处于战斗状态中。

His engaged and assertive demeanor contradicts — and cosmetically corrects — the impression he often made in office of being philosophically detached from what was going on around him. At some level, all portraits are propaganda, political or personal. And what makes this one distinctive is the personal part. Wiley has set Obama against — really embedded him in — a bower of what looks like ground cover. From the greenery sprout flowers that have symbolic meaning for the sitter. African blue lilies represent Kenya, his father’s birthplace; jasmine stands for Hawaii, where Obama himself was born; chrysanthemums, the official flower of Chicago, reference the city where his political career began, and where he met his wife.

他专注而坚定的神情(以及他的妆容)与他在办公室里经常露出的超然于周遭的哲思神态不一样。从某种程度上讲,所有的肖像画都是为了宣传——政治宣传或个人宣传。这幅肖像画的不同之处在于它的个人部分。威利将奥巴马置于——实际上是嵌入——一个充满地被植物的背景之中。绿色植物上开出的花朵对坐在那里的主人公具有象征意义。非洲蓝百合代表肯尼亚,那是奥巴马父亲的出生地;茉莉花代表夏威夷,那是奥巴马本人的出生地;菊花是芝加哥的市花,奥巴马的政治生涯始于芝加哥,他也是在那里遇见他的妻子。

Michelle Obama’s choice of Sherald as an artist was an enterprising one. Sherald, who was born in Columbus, Georgia, in 1973 and lives in Baltimore, is just beginning to move into the national spotlight after putting her career on hold for some years to deal with a family health crisis, and one of her own. (She had a heart transplant at 39.) Production-wise, she and Wiley operate quite differently. He runs the equivalent of a multinational art factory, with assistants churning out work. Sherald, who until a few years ago made her living waiting tables, oversees a studio staff of one, herself.

米歇尔·奥巴马选择谢拉尔德担任自己的肖像画师是很有魄力的。谢拉尔德1973年出生于佐治亚州哥伦布市,现在住在巴尔的摩。为了应对家庭以及她自己的健康危机(她在39岁时做了心脏移植手术),她的职业生涯停顿了好几年,现在才刚开始引起举国瞩目。在创作方面,她和威利的运作方式截然不同。威利像是在经营一家跨国艺术工厂,有很多助手帮忙炮制作品。而谢拉尔德直到几年前还是以当服务员为生,管理着唯一一名工作室员工,也就是她自己。

She shows Michelle Obama sitting against a field of light blue, wearing a spreading gown. The dress design, by Michelle Smith, is eye-teasingly complicated: mostly white interrupted by black op art-ish blips and patches of striped color suggestive of African textiles. The shape of the dress, rising pyramidally upward, mountain-like, feels as if it were the real subject of the portrait. Michelle Obama’s face forms the composition’s peak, but could be almost anyone’s face, like a model’s face in a fashion spread. To be honest, I was anticipating — hoping for — a bolder, more incisive image of the strong-voiced person I imagine this former first lady to be.

她笔下的米歇尔·奥巴马坐在浅蓝色的背景前,穿着一件宽摆礼服。米歇尔·史密斯(Michelle Smith)设计的这件礼服非常复杂,引人注目:它总体上是白色的,点缀着有点欧普艺术味道的黑色圆点以及让人想到非洲织物的彩色条纹。礼服呈圆锥形,越往上越尖,有点像山,好像它才是这幅肖像画真正的主题。米歇尔·奥巴马的脸是这幅作品的最高点,但这张脸毫无特征,就像时装广告页上模特的脸。坦白地说,我期待也希望看到的是一个更大胆、更犀利的形象,能反映语调坚定的前第一夫人在我想像中的特质。

And while I’m wishing, let me mention something more. Barack Obama’s portrait will be installed, long-term, among those of his presidential peers, in a dedicated space on the second floor. Michelle Obama’s will hang in a corridor reserved for temporary displays of new acquisitions — on the first floor. It will stay there until November, after which there’s no set-aside place for it to land.

既然说到我的愿望,那就容我再说一点。贝拉克·奥巴马的肖像画将长期挂在二楼的一个专用空间里,和其他总统的肖像画挂在一起。而米歇尔·奥巴马的肖像画将挂在一楼的一个供暂时展示新作品的走廊里。它将在那里展出至11月,之后就没有专门留给它悬挂的地方了。

If first men have an acknowledged showcase, first women — ladies or not — should too. Better, they should all be together, sharing space, offering a welcoming environment to, among others, a future first female president, and creating a lasting monument to #MeToo.

如果第一先生们有用以致敬的展示厅,那么第一夫人们也应该有。他们最好放在一起,共享一个空间,为未来的第一位女总统提供一个友好的氛围,也为#MeToo(我也是)运动创造一个永久的纪念馆。

翻译:陈亦亭、王相宜