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The National Gallery of Art (NGA) in Washington, DC, has acquired four monumental drawings by the artist Robert Longo. Like much of Longo’s more recent output, the works are overtly political in nature, depicting the White House, the US Capitol, the Supreme Court Building and the 6 January 2021 insurrection.

Robert Longo’s The Forest (White House) (2019)

Collectively titled Engines of State: Whale, Rock, Forest, the first three of these drawings—individually called The Forest (White House) (2019), The Whale (United States Capitol) (2012–13) and The Rock (The Supreme Court of the United States—Split) (2018)—were donated to by the artist Clifford Ross. The highly detailed charcoal works are based on pre-existing photographs and videos, recombined and altered by Longo, of the three buildings representing the three branches of US government. Made up of multiple panels, each composition measures around 10ft tall and up to 42ft wide. Longo highlights both the might and the fragility of these institutions in the works through his use of light, shadow and composition. The three drawings are on view at the NGA until 22 September.

Robert Longo, The Whale (The United States Capitol) (2012–2013)

The fourth drawing, Untitled (Insurrection at the U.S. Capitol; January 6th, 2021; Based on a photograph by Mark Peterson) (2021), is a 10ft-wide closeup of a few of the insurgents who stormed the Capitol in 2021. Covering their faces with gas masks and handkerchiefs, several men carry and wear American flags as they break their way into the building. This acquisition was funded by the NGA board member Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen and her husband, the venture capitalist Marc Andreessen.

Robert Longo, The Rock (The Supreme Court of the United States—Split) (2018)

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