'Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition'

Friday, June 30, 2006

It isn't hard to see why Steve DeFrank's portrait "Mom and Dad" stands out from the 50 others on view in the "Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition 2006" (a group whittled down from about 4,000 submissions). It could be that it's done in garishly glowing Lite-Brite pegs or that its subjects -- yes, the artist's parents -- are stark naked.

Either way, you'll not forget it, even if it isn't among your favorites on view in this first edition of a planned triennial contemporary portrait competition endowed by longtime National Portrait Gallery docent Virginia Outwin Boochever. Along with the $25,000 first-prize winner, David Lenz, who also gets a National Portrait Gallery commission, finalists include the coolly representational Tina Newberry; Baltimore's Jenny Kanzler, whose "Portrait of an Antelope, Exhibiting an Uncanny Resemblance to Abe" is quasi-abstract; and Nina Levy's 56-inch-tall, painted-polyester-resin "Large Head." If Levy's oversize noggin strikes your fancy, you'll find more by this intriguing artist in the first-floor exhibition "Portraiture Now" (see Page 29).

OUTWIN BOOCHEVER PORTRAIT COMPETITION 2006 Through Feb. 19 at the National Portrait Gallery. Second floor west.

Michael O'Sullivan covers art and film for Weekend.

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