oel Dinerstein has whittled down the definition of “cool”: a person who shows a “relaxed intensity.” Together with co-curator Frank Goodyear III, Dinerstein is responsible for the “American Cool” exhibit on view at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington through Sept. 7. The exhibit represents, through portraiture, people whose relaxed intensity has made them icons of cool within their generations.
Dinerstein, the director of the American studies program at Tulane University and a scholar, lecturer, and author of the concept of cool, sought to curate an exhibit that displayed who, rather than what, has defined “cool,” a term originally coined by black jazz musicians in the 1940s. To do that, Dinerstein developed a four-part rubric from which the 100 images selected to appear in the show had to apply. They include: an original artistic vision, a cultural rebellion, iconic power, and a recognized cultural legacy.