The National Portrait Gallery of Washington, D.C., is currently displaying a psychological thriller of a painting: “Untitled, Jeffrey P. Bezos,” 2019. We won’t ask why the gallery would choose to display a six-by-five-and-a-half portrait of the 2019 fundraising gala honoree as it enjoys a new spate of VIP interest and oh, by the way, reported an $11 million annual budget for FY 2017. More interesting, from a technical standpoint, is a set of discrete choices–the icy gaze, the cramped posture, the yawning absence of earthly surroundings–of a specter temporarily entombed inside a human body. The keeper of limbo, perhaps. It makes “American Gothic” look as feelings-y as a Thomas Kinkade. It still doesn’t come close to this chiaroscuro of Jeff Bezos devouring an iguana with his hands (at home, conceivably), but that’s impossible because no portrait will ever beat that ever.
In fact, it’s maybe too on the nose. The left eye droops in the way that Bezos’s left eye droops; the neck juts out the way that Bezos’s neck juts out; the head is bald in the way that Bezos’s head is bald. It’s all there.
Except for the mystifying decision to leave about two feet of white space above the subject’s head while chopping off the hands, what more appropriate setting can you imagine him in, other than nothingness? We can’t. But I dunno! Feel free to get creative with Photoshop in the comments; here’s the link to the source image.
And get a load of this spin-off, an absolute masterpiece: