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Kehinde Wiley In Retrospection Of A New Republic

By Tajudeen Sowole
20 February 2015   |   11:00 pm
OEUVRE of 14 years titled Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic, which features 60 paintings of the African American artist of Nigerian origin opens from today, and ends on May 24, 2015 at Gerald Cantor Gallery Brooklyn Museum, New York, U.S.    According to a brief posted on the museum’s website, the exhibition raises questions about…

Wiley-in-retrospection-

Wiley-in-retrospection-

OEUVRE of 14 years titled Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic, which features 60 paintings of the African American artist of Nigerian origin opens from today, and ends on May 24, 2015 at Gerald Cantor Gallery Brooklyn Museum, New York, U.S. 

  According to a brief posted on the museum’s website, the exhibition raises questions about race, gender, and the politics of representation in the artist’s depiction of contemporary African American men and women that implores  “the conventions of traditional European portraiture,” style.  The exhibition features paintings and sculptures by Wiley in a retrospection of that covers 14 years.

  The museum stresses: “Wiley’s signature portraits of everyday men and women riff on specific paintings by Old Masters, replacing the European aristocrats depicted in those paintings with contemporary black subjects, drawing attention to the absence of African Americans from historical and cultural narratives.”

  Few weeks ago, the U.S State Department confirmed the phenomenon in Wiley when the government gave him State Department Medal of Arts For the Brooklyn Museum,  The characters in his portraits define the uniqueness with features such as wearing  sneakers, hoodies, and baseball caps that are synonymous with hip-hop culture. More importantly, the features “are set against contrasting ornate decorative backgrounds that evoke earlier eras and a range of cultures.”

  The museum explains Wiley’s process of imploring  “street casting,” which makes the artist invites people, individually, including strangers he encounters on the street, as sitters for portraits in his studio. “In this collaborative process, the model chooses reproduction of a painting from a book and reenacts the pose of the painting’s figure. By inviting the subjects to select a work of art, Wiley gives them a measure of control over the way they’re portrayed.” Among the works for the exhibition are Wiley’s World Stage paintings, from 2006, featuring models from other locations outside the U.S, including countries like Nigeria, Senegal and Israel.  

  The exhibition, Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic is organised by Eugenie Tsai, John and Barbara Vogelstein Curator of Contemporary Art, Brooklyn Museum. It 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.

   Wiley was awarded the 2014 State Department Medal of Arts, for what has been described as a honor for his contributions to the country’s official cultural diplomacy. Secretary of State John Kerry gave Wiley and six others including Architect Maya Lin the medals recently.

  The U.S State department, according the artist’s gallery, Los Angeles’s Roberts & Tilton, notes Wiley’s “substantive commitment to the US State Department’s cultural diplomacy outreach through the visual arts,” 

 Other recipients included Xu Bing, Mark Bradford, Sam Gilliam, Julie Mehretu and Pedro Rey at the State Department’s luncheon. The artists were commended for their commitment and contribution to the State Department’s Art in Embassies program, a private-public diplomatic effort that uses visual art to promote cross-cultural understanding and collaboration.