WASHINGTON — You don’t have to be a rocket scientist or an astronaut to work for NASA. Engineers, pilots, physicists, astrobiologists, and, yes, artists, too, have helped further the mission of the space agency.
In 1962, NASA administrator James E. Webb invited a group of artists to illustrate and interpret the agency’s missions and projects. Artists, participating in the NASA art program, many of them renowned, have been documenting the extraordinary adventure of spaceflight ever since. Granted special access to historic moments, they have offered their perspectives on what they have witnessed.
“NASA | ART: 50 Years of Exploration,” on view from May 28 to Oct. 9 at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington, features works by artists as diverse as Annie Leibovitz, Alexander Calder, Nam June Paik, Norman Rockwell, Andy Warhol and William Wegman. The exhibition includes drawings, photographs, sculpture and other art forms and media from the collections of NASA and the National Air and Space Museum. The more than 70 works, ranging from the illustrative to the abstract, present a different view of NASA than the one in history books or on news shows.
Several of the artists have captured the faces and personalities of the men and women who have flown in space. Other members of the team, scientists, engineers, technicians, managers and thousands of others who made the space program possible, also are portrayed.
Bunkers, gantries, radio dishes and the towering Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, attracted other program artists, some of whom were struck by the co-existence of the space-age architecture of the Cape with the beaches, swamps, birds, and animals that surround the facility.
The exhibition is organized by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) and NASA in cooperation with the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. The museum, located at Sixth Street and Independence Avenue SW, is open daily from 10 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25). Admission is free.
To see images from the NASA | ART exhibit and for more information, visit: