Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic, Now At The Brooklyn Museum
Los Angeles-born artist Kehinde Wiley had a really great idea back in the early aughts, fresh off his MFA from Yale, and he has executed it in dozens (hundreds?) of surprising, sensual, powerful, and provocative ways ever since. Basically, the signature Wiley painting (or, occasionally, sculpture or stained-glass work) takes contemporary black men and women and realistically renders them within the context of European "old master" settings, scenes, and poses. These usually-enormous pieces are at once beautifully intimate and attention-grabbing spectacular, and though they may not be everyone's cup of tea, they are most definitely mine. If you know and like his work, or are intrigued by the photos here, you should definitely head out to the Brooklyn Museum this spring for the gorgeous, expansive retrospective, Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic.
Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic At The Brooklyn Museum
The Kehinde Wiley exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum features sixty paintings, sculptures, and other pieces spanning the artist's entire 14-year career, and almost all are riffs on this core concept. You'd think this might get tedious, but it does not, mostly because Wiley puts such energy into even the most languid of scenes. Much of this comes from his backgrounds, usually floral, always bright and even jarring in the intensity of their colors and pattern, often breaking the plane and intertwining with the subject to further complicate and enliven the dynamic. Plus there's the delight in seeing these old, overly-familiar aesthetic conventions subverted, and brought so thrillingly into the up-to-the-minute present.
What To Expect From Kehinde Wiley's A New Republic
But like any great portrait, it's the people themselves–their expressions, their fluidity, the imagined thoughts and emotions and lives behind facades–that makes Wiley's art so irresistible. There are some famous faces among the pieces on display at the Brooklyn Museum–Michael Jackson as King Philip II, to cite one notable example–but most of the people here were found by Wiley through what he calls "street casting", during which the artist trolls Harlem or South Central LA for everyday folks, even inviting them to choose which classic painting or pose they'd like to appear. The collaborative aspect adds yet another layer of intrigue ("why'd they choose this one?") to the portraits. Fantastic stuff you won't soon forget.
More Information on Kehinde Wiley at The Brooklyn Museum
Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic will be at the Brooklyn Museum through May 24. The Brooklyn Museum is located at 200 Eastern Parkway, and there's a 2/3 train subway station right the entrance. The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., and until 10:00 p.m. on Thursdays. Closed Monday and Tuesday. You can find lots more information here.