Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic

Artist Kehinde Wiley’s exhibit is currently at the Brooklyn Museum, running from February 20 through May 24. His paintings are magnificent, not only in size but also in skill. Wiley transforms traditional paintings and images from previous centuries and uses contemporary subjects in the old surroundings. The stark contrast is amazing to see, everything from a tattooed man in a field of flowers to a Timberland wearing Patron Saint. In addition to paintings the exhibit displays some stained glass and sculpture work also produced by Wiley. His subjects are always black, he states, “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.”

Wiley’s work usually consists of men, and his new series “An Economy of Grace” shows his shift to featuring women as primary subjects. On his website Wiley explains why he began to paint women: “The reason why I am painting women now is in order to come to terms with depictions of gender and the way it is featured art historically--a means to broaden the conversation. Any consideration of male power in painting naturally includes the presence of women within that dialogue. "An Economy of Grace" is an investigation of the presence of women in painting, but in a broader sense, it is a investigation of the negotiation of power in image-making. For this body of work I looked to 18th and 19th-century society portraits for inspiration. At that time it was common practice for nobility to commission unique clothing for portraiture. By working with a major fashion house on this project (Givenchy), we're revamping that tradition for the 21st century. I've always been a big fan of Givenchy and Riccardo Tisci's work, so it was a wonderful opportunity to work with him.”

 If you are the NYC area you should definitely stop and view the exhibit, you won’t be disappointed.