55 Years | President Kennedy on Magazine Covers 1963 – 2018
On Display November 13, 2018 – August 4, 2019
In tribute to President John F. Kennedy’s life and legacy, and in remembrance of the 55th anniversary of the death (November 22, 2018), the Museum is presenting a new temporary exhibit, “55 Years.” Coinciding with the 30th anniversary of The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza (February 18, 2019), “55 Years” showcases how President Kennedy’s image has been depicted on many popular magazine covers over the last five decades. This captivating visual timeline of President Kennedy’s likeness reflects his everlasting imprint on our nation’s consciousness.
The exhibit, located on the seventh floor, is included with general Museum admission.
About the Exhibit
President John F. Kennedy was often the focus of magazine covers and headlines throughout his political career and presidency. With a charismatic personality, aspirational ideas and youthful good looks, his image routinely donned the covers of magazines. Articles about him, both positive and negative, dominated the headlines during his lifetime.
The November 22, 1963 assassination of President Kennedy, however, marked an immediate shift in how he was portrayed in the media. Critical articles became rare and imagery frequently reflected a commemorative, nostalgic tone. While President Kennedy’s image and influence have continued to be the focus of magazine articles over the years, “55 Years” visually conveys how the symbolic memorialization of the 35th president has evolved over time to become an idealized reminder of the way we were.
About the Publications
Sourced from Museum collections and arranged by decades, 57 magazines represent 55 years of covers, from immediately after the assassination in 1963 to 2018. Reflecting a cross-section of society and a broad spectrum of content and perspective, the exhibition includes glossy mass-market pictorial magazines such as LIFE and LOOK, popular publications including Time, Newsweek, Esquire, Good Housekeeping, JET and Vanity Fair, as well as niche publications like National Lampoon and Cigar Aficionado. Regional/local print media includes Texas Monthly and D Magazine, while foreign language titles include Life in Español and Paris Match. Each brings a unique point of view to the remembrance of the president, yet together create a nuanced portrayal of how President Kennedy has continued to inspire over the past 55 years since his death.
At first glance, the images appear to be single, oversized black and white portraits of President John F. Kennedy and his wife, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy. Upon closer examination, the magic of artist Alex Guofeng Cao is revealed as thousands and thousands of smaller images that make up each portrait become visible. Cao, a New-York based artist known for his large-scale portraits of famous figures, donated the two 9’ x 6’ portraits of President and Mrs. Kennedy to The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza.Called photomosaics, each pixel within the portrait is a much smaller picture of another figure – someone important to or associated with the main figure. The portrait of President Kennedy, titled JFK vs Jackie, 2010, is made up of 50,000 smaller portraits of Jacqueline Kennedy. Jackie vs JFK II, 2010 likewise creates Mrs. Kennedy through 50,000 tiny portraits of her husband.Cao says the titles of the pieces don’t imply that the subjects are adversaries, but rather indicate a relationship. In the artist’s words, the pixels and the portrait within one piece speak to each other, using the biography of one person to create a dialogue with the historic background of another. Both photomosaics contain intriguing surprises, as well. The portrait of President Kennedy includes five pixels of different images among the 50,000, representing important figures and dates in the president’s life. Mrs. Kennedy’s portrait has three different images, also representing important figures and dates in her life.
Alex Guofeng Cao
Born in China and educated in the United States, Cao started his career in commercial photography. His current work is influenced by a longtime interest in history, as well as the pop art movement. His works use some of the most recognizable faces of the 20th century such as Abraham Lincoln, Andy Warhol, Marilyn Monroe and Gandhi.