On this date in 2014, the Smithsonian Institution wrapped up a long-running exhibition titled American Cool. Here is another look at the ElvisBlog post it inspired.
This is the picture chosen to represent Elvis in the American Cool exhibition presented by the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. The exhibition shows photographs of 50 men and 50 women selected as typifying cool during the last century in America. It runs through September 7, 2014.
It’s not surprising that many of the American Cool are rock singers or other assorted musicians. The list includes:
James Brown, Jay-Z, Johnny Cash, Madonna, Kurt Cobain, Bob Dylan, Marvin Gaye, Deborah Harry (Blondie), Jimi Hendrix, Chrissie Hynde (The Pretenders), Gene Krupa, Willie Nelson, Charlie Parker, Prince, Selena, Bonnie Raitt, Lou Reed, Carlos Santana, Tupac Shakur, Patti Smith, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Waits, and Muddy Waters.
One notable omission is Michael Jackson. I guess too many things have happened that diminished his cool factor.
Andy Warhol also made the list, and look at the photo of him they chose to show the exhibition.
In addition to the list and the photos of each cool person, the website and related links have passages explaining what qualities represent cool. I culled out some of the best ideas and matched them up with appropriate Elvis pictures.
Cool is the opposite of innocence.
[A cool person has] an original artistic vision carried off with a signature style.
Someone cool has a charismatic edge and a dark side.
Cool is an earned form of individuality.
[A cool person has] a recognized cultural legacy.
Cool referrers to a combination of wildness and intensity in men unconcerned with social conformity.
A cool person has a situation under control, and with a signature style.
Every individual here created an original persona without precedent in American culture.
[A cool person] has contributed an original artistic vision to American culture symbolic of a particular historical moment.
Cool carries a social charge of rebellious self-expression, charisma, edge and mystery.
[A cool person has] iconic power, or instant visual recognition.
For my money, the National Portrait Gallery could have posted nothing but photos of Elvis for their American Cool exhibition.
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