Photo Credit: newyorktimes.com
A New Republic. This weekend I had the pleasure of visiting the Brooklyn Museum (yes, I actually crossed the water) to view New York artist Kehinde Wiley’s art exhibit. I discovered the exhibit while walking out of my train station. There stood a painting that commanded my attention. The painting – Shantavia Beale II. For weeks, I stopped and smiled at the picture and made up my mind that I would go to the exhibit to view his other works.Up until a few weeks ago, I didn’t even know who Kihinde Wiley was. Naturally, I came home and did a little research on him. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that he was a Nigerian-American. That was just the tip of the iceberg. What made his work unique to me was that he took heroic poses from classic works and uses African, Tunisian, Indian, and African-American faces and garb and re-creates these classic masterpieces. He works using various mediums – oil paintings, sculpture depicting people of color in heroic poses – all the while bringing modernism to classic and Victorian works we have seen. He travels the world to capture the faces that he wants in his work and perfectly matches them to “classic” works that up until now were thought of as Western art. The colors are so vibrant and the portraits seem almost 3-D. He captures every contour of the faces, the way light would hit every part of the skin, each picture is a perfect, but imperfect at the same time. In his work he touches on every part of our lives including politics, sexuality, business, family, and economy. The works force you to look at his work as neither eastern or western, they are neither African or American – they are all of these concepts melded into one. It is fitting that this exhibit is appropriately titled: A New Republic. Every single work had a story to tell and were relatable to anyone and everyone. Below are my favorites from the exhibit. Click on any image to view larger.
This next set of works is based on art of the Renaissance and Romanticism eras. Here, the subjects are depicted as urban saints or monarchs. My favorite amongst these is Napoleon Leading The Army Over the Alps.