Through the exhibition Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic, which just opened at the Brooklyn Museum, New York based artist Wiley proves that it is possible to create a place for African Americans within the canon of Art History, and that it can be done beautifully and poignantly, while still eliciting questions and inciting change.
The exhibition highlights various series of Wiley's works, including many paintings as well as a grouping of stained glass pieces. For much of his work, Wiley appropriates poses from heroic portraiture, but replaces the subjects with African American youth, usually male (though he branched out into female subjects with the series An Economy of Grace). Generally, the subjects themselves choose the portrait they would like to be fashioned after, which gives them a sense of control over the outcome.
Viewing Wiley's body of work as a whole, he continues to challenge the role of the black individual within Art History, combining hip hop culture with high brow, traditionally white, male portraiture. It is a thought-provoking commentary on the way that art, and society, have been and continue to be further democratized.
Dress: Tracy Reese
Shoes: United Nude
Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic is on view at the Brooklyn Museum through May 24, 2015.
Photos of me by Kathy Paciello; other photos by me.