"Out of Many, One" was commissioned by the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery and created by Cuban American urban artist, Jorge Rodríguez-Gerada. This giant portrait was placed temporarily on the National Mall from Oct. 4 through Oct. 31, 2014.
For the work titled “Out of Many, One,” the English translation of E pluribus unum, Rodríguez-Gerada is using dozens of images of people photographed in Washington, D.C., to create a composite portrait that will be an interactive walk-through experience for visitors and also be viewable from the newly reopened Washington Monument. The work is so large it is also visible via satellite. The project covers 6 acres and falls midway between the World War II and Lincoln memorials along the south side of the Reflecting Pool.
“Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada’s work demonstrates that the art of portraiture knows no boundaries,” said Kim Sajet, director of the Portrait Gallery. “Who we are, how we perceive others, those we recognize and those we place in high esteem constantly shifts over time. Portraits and the people they represent can be as big as we are willing to imagine.”
Rodríguez-Gerada has translated his drawing into a digital format incorporating parallel lines. Currently each line is being drawn out using TopCon high-precision satellite navigation receivers on the ground. The image is created using different colors of dirt and sand based on these lines. The GPS technology allows the artist to place the large-scale image at the location with high resolution and precision.
““This portrait, a stunning compilation of American faces, reflects the unique composition of the National Mall’s 29 million annual visitors and honors the legacy of diversity that has made this park—and our country—so great,” said Caroline Cunningham, president of the Trust for the National Mall.
The installation began in September 2014 and was completed by October 1, 2014. The project required approximately 2,000 tons of sand, 800 tons of soil, 10,000 wooden pegs and 8 miles of string. At the conclusion of the temporary exhibition, the high-quality sand and dirt was tilled back into the soil to help the National Park Service as they move forward with the next phase of turf restoration on the National Mall. The sand-soil composition will leave the grounds in better condition than when the project began.
“‘Out of Many, One’ reflects what the National Mall stands for—democracy, diversity and freedom of expression,” said National Mall and Memorial Parks Superintendent Bob Vogel. “It will provide visitors with a unique national park experience and, in keeping with our mission, will improve the soil for better turf in the future. These benefits would not be possible without this unique partnership.”
Rodríguez-Gerada, born in Cuba and raised in New Jersey since the age of 3, has worked in this style of urban portraiture since 2002. His art aims to create a dialogue about the concept of identity, and it questions the role models who are chosen to represent people in the public sphere. These works have no negative environmental impact and are created to poetically blend back into the land.
All of Rodríguez-Gerada’s large-scale “facescapes” can be seen from space and are part of his TERRESTRIAL series; this is the first placed in the United States. Others have been created in Barcelona, Spain; Amsterdam; and Belfast, Northern Ireland.
With great thanks to the individuals and companies who made this project a reality:
National Portrait Gallery
Trust for the National Mall
National Park Service
ValleyCrest Landscape Companies
Shirley Contracting Company, LLC
A.H. Hatcher, Inc.
Jaleo by José Andrés
Tommie L. Pegues and Donald A. Capoccia
Carol and John Boochever
Irene and Alan Wurtzel
Other Individual Contributors
The National Portrait Gallery presents “Out of Many, One,” by Rodríguez-Gerada in partnership with the Trust for the National Mall and the National Park Service.