From the earliest recorded military accounts, as far back as the Roman Empire, camouflage is described as concealment by design. Yet, it finds its true origin in nature’s design. From the masters of disguise in the insect world like the orchid mantis, to the stealthy predator lions of the savanna, nature invented camouflage. And, its visual impact has transmuted from forests and jungles to streets and fashion runways, where the objective is to stand out, rather than blend in.

Camouflage: In Plain Sight expands beyond the familiar associations of camouflage to explore how we work to be seen and unseen. Through the lenses of natural history, military history, art, design, technology, fashion and popular culture, Camouflage highlights the contrast between the functional and cultural. Included in the exhibition are historical objects, natural history specimens, items from popular culture, and major works of modern and contemporary art by artists like Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns and Cindy Sherman.

Camouflage also explores how contemporary society and new technology continually transform the way we hide in plain sight, even to create anti-camouflage: invisibility cloaks inspired by the dermal modification properties of snakes, fish and butterflies; algorithm-based data “masking”; counter-surveillance cosmetics and apparel that thwart thermal imaging and confuse facial recognition systems.

From military might to counter-culture cool to camo chic, Camouflage: In Plain Sight exposes the ancient, yet modern, art of concealment.

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