Photograph by Darrow Montgomery
My parents and I don’t always agree on the merits of art—I drool over anything Ab-Ex and onward; they scoff at anything they think a 5-year-old could make. But we all found something to like in the National Portrait Gallery’s “American Cool,”
a tribute to the icons and idols who’ve nurtured this country’s obsession with sangfroid, rebellion, and precariously dangling cigarettes. In a collection of portraits spanning more than a century of pop culture, there were bound to be some knowledge gaps: I needed a primer on Gene Krupa, and my mom wouldn’t have known Tony Hawk if he’d kickflipped down her stairs. Luckily, we were there to school one another, leaving each of us with deeper insight than if we’d gone alone.