Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic Painting is about the world we live in. Black people live in the world. My choice is to include them. This is my way of saying
yes to us.
Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic, the first museum survey of Wiley’s prolific fourteen-year career, reveals the breadth of his production. The exhibition presents striking portraits of African American men—the artist’s signature works—along with perhaps unexpected and less-familiar new developments: portraits of women, bronze sculpture, and stained glass.
Since 2001, the practice of Kehinde Wiley (American, b. 1977) has been based on transforming historical portraits—originally commissioned from European Old Masters and intended to convey the status and power of the sitter—into monumental contemporary paintings that place black subjects front and center. He thereby draws attention to the absence of black men and women from traditional Western art history and from our cultural narratives. His deliberate riffs on art-historical masterpieces skillfully engineer a collision between past and present, initiating timely conversations about race, gender roles, and the politics of representation.
A New Republic opens in the Rotunda with recent examples of Wiley’s work showcasing male sitters: stained-glass panels set into a chapel-like structure, paintings from a new series based on Byzantine icons, and bronze portrait busts. In the galleries, important works from throughout his career are on view. The exhibition closes with his recent paintings of female subjects, which surround his first-ever sculpture of women. Within the exhibition, the commentaries about individual artworks are adapted from texts by some of the thirty-five writers who contributed to the accompanying catalogue, reflecting the range and diversity of responses to Wiley’s work.
Wiley’s vision of what constitutes A New Republic, the title he chose for this Brooklyn Museum exhibition, cannot help but appear corrective, even utopian, with its embrace of differences in gender, sexual orientation, and culture, using the power of images to remedy the historical invisibility of black men and women as subjects and producers of culture. Wiley’s paintings, sculpture, and stained glass have altered the narrative of art history, and inserted Wiley firmly into it. With his move from critiquing European art-historical traditions to the even more ambitious scope of his World Stage series, Wiley shows himself to be at the height of his artistic powers, the exemplary global artist for the twenty-first century.
John and Barbara Vogelstein Curator of Contemporary Art
Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic is organized by Eugenie Tsai, John and Barbara Vogelstein Curator of Contemporary Art, Brooklyn Museum.
This exhibition is made possible by the Henry Luce Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and Grey Goose Vodka. Additional support is provided by Sotheby’s, Ana and Lenny Gravier, Sean Kelly Gallery, Stephen Friedman Gallery, John and Amy Phelan, Roberts & Tilton, and Pamela K. and William A. Royall, Jr.
As an artist-in-residence at the Studio Museum in Harlem in 2001–2, Kehinde Wiley developed a technique he called “street casting,” a collaborative process he still uses that enables the artist and subject to co-produce a portrait. Initially he approached young black men on the street, inviting them to his studio to select a historical work of art from a reproduction in an art book. The model would strike the pose of the subject in the picture, and Wiley would shoot his portrait with a camera. The artist then transformed the photograph into a large-scale painting. This process produced paintings for many of the works included in the exhibition.
December 1, 2014
The Brooklyn Museum presents Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic , the first museum survey of the artist's rich and prolific career, on view from February 20 through May 24, 2015.
Comprised of approximately sixty objects, Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic highlights the range of the artist's work. The exhibition includes his early portrait paintings, inspired by the artist’s observation of street life in Harlem and set to the visual language of classical European portraiture, as well as his recent explorations in sculpture and stained glass.
Kehinde Wiley has received critical acclaim for his investigation of race, power, and the politics of representation, and his work has been lauded for giving new meaning to the social codes of gesture and dress, past and present, while challenging stereotypes about masculinity and class today, in America and around the world.
Works on view include selections from his ongoing World Stage series. Initiated in China in 2006, The World Stage examines socioeconomic conditions and culture through the everyday lives of people in India, Sri Lanka, Israel, Jamaica, and Nigeria, among other countries. Also on view will be his bronze busts, as well as his recent portraits of women from his series An Economy of Grace, and his new stained-glass "paintings."
Kehinde Wiley works in the Brooklyn Museum's permanent collection include a chapel-like space devoted to large paintings from his Passing/Posing series (2003) along with the portrait Miss Susanna Gale (2009) and the sculpture Houdon Paul-Louis (2011). The artist’s Napoleon Leading the Army over the Alps (2005), installed in the Museum's lobby, is on long-term loan. In 2004, the Brooklyn Museum presented Passing/Posing, Wiley's first solo museum exhibition.
Kehinde Wiley was born in Los Angeles, received a BFA from San Francisco Art Institute in 1999, and an MFA from Yale University in 2001. His works are in the collections of over forty museums, such as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; and the Seattle Art Museum. Wiley has had solo exhibitions at the Phoenix Art Museum; the Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio; the Portland Art Museum, Oregon; the Jewish Museum, New York; and the Studio Museum in Harlem, among other museums. His work has been the subject of ten monographs to date. Wiley is currently working on multiple projects, including a monumental painting for a commission with "ART in Embassies" for the new United States Embassy in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic is organized by Eugenie Tsai, John and Barbara Vogelstein Curator of Contemporary Art, Brooklyn Museum. The exhibition will travel to venues to be announced. A fully illustrated catalogue published by the Brooklyn Museum and DelMonico Books/Prestel accompanies the exhibition.
This exhibition is made possible by the Henry Luce Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and Grey Goose Vodka. Additional support is provided by Sotheby's, Ana and Lenny Gravier, John and Amy Phelan, Sean Kelly Gallery, Stephen Friedman Gallery, Roberts & Tilton, and Pamela K. and William A. Royall, Jr.