"NASA ART" features nearly five decades of creations by artists as diverse as Annie Leibovitz, Nam June Paik, Norman Rockwell, Andy Warhol and William Wegman. Drawn from the collections of NASA and the National Air and Space Museum, the exhibition includes drawings, photographs, sculpture and other art forms and media. These works – ranging from the illustrative to the abstract – offer unparalleled insight into the private and personal moments, triumphant victories and tragic accidents that form the storied history of NASA.
For example, in Henry Caselli's "When Thoughts Turned Inward," the artist captures the serene, almost spiritual moment before takeoff, when an astronaut must prepare mentally for a mission. In a Chakaia Booker's "Remembering Columbia," the tragedy and pain of the lost Space Shuttle Columbia and its crew are transformed in the twisting tire remnants preserved from one of the shuttle's earlier missions. And Andy Warhol melds Buzz Aldrin's historic steps on the lunar surface with the unbridled exuberance and flashiness of the 1960s in his neon-lighted "Moonwalk" silkscreen.
The works featured in the exhibit date from the inception of the NASA Art Program in 1962, when NASA administrator James E. Webb asked a group of artists to illustrate, interpret and elucidate the space agency's missions and projects. Since then, painters, musicians and conceptual artists have been with NASA every step of the way, strolling along launch pads, training in flight simulators, talking with engineers and technicians and visiting with astronauts before and after their flights.