Black Men Made Saints by Paint, A REVIEW OF KEHINDE WILEY
By Melanie Maria Goodreaux
Kehinde Wiley’s “A New Republic” puts prayer, paint, bronze, and gold trim to the idea that “Black Lives Matter.” His exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum of Art is breathtaking, moving, and important to see. Imagine oil paintings of young black men that “canonize” them as saints and kings. Imagine black busts in bronze on white marble pedestals of the dudes you know from the neighborhood–that is, if your neighborhood is like mine. I live between 125th St. and Sugar Hill in Harlem. My neighborhood is filled with a manifold of black men– young and old, varying brown skin tones, styles and professions, distinguished by their hats and pants and leans and stands and varying sets of intellect. They are a multitude of accents and outfits, families and characters, some with sagging pants, baseball caps to the left, jogging suits, business suits, dapper-dans and whatever daywear is donned by “the ordinary every-day black man.” The “black man” who travels up and down the blocks of my life, your life, and his own, and who, in his essence, is just a human being, nothing to be afraid of– until he is magnified into a stereotype, a disturbing newsclip, or is once again the eminent center of vulnerability and protest because the worth of his life is still as ‘questionable’ as it has always been.
Represent: 200 years of African American Art. Now through April 5, 2015 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Represent takes the patron through the 19th and 20th centuries of the African American experience as illustrated mainly by artists centered in Philadelphia and New York. The pieces in this collection are drawn from the permanent collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and arranged conveniently and chronologically in a gallery for your enjoyment. The exhibit tells a story of isolation and assimilation and the works demonstrate parallel cultures which are both intertwined and separate. The pieces featured in the show range a diverse range of perspectives and styles. The exhibit includes works from painters, artisans, sculptors, crafters, and photographers encompassing everything from a practical storage vessel to activist and abstract art.
As you enter the gallery you are greeted by a very moving black and white portrait of a young Martin Luther King by John Woodrow Wilson in 1988. The portrait is charcoal on cream wove paper. The stark image with downcast black eyes in bold black and white contrast is highly evocative. One’s thoughts turn to the history of Africans in America; the triumphs and the tragedies. This is a perfect welcome into the exhibit. Continue reading
Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic
The Brooklyn Museum
February 20–May 24, 2015
Morris A. and Meyer Schapiro Wing and Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Gallery, 5th Floor
Often it takes a retrospective to even begin to comprehend an artist’s work (i.e. Gerhard Richter, Cy Twombly) as many pieces come together to form the larger picture. That said this writer has been witness to Kehinde Wiley’s canvasses for the duration of his once nascent and now prolonged trip into art-world superstardom (even accidentally stumbling upon his studio and a party therein and been present when Jeffrey Deitch exhibited his portrait of Michael Jackson on horseback after Peter Paul Reuben’s painting of King Phillip ll of Spain at Art Basel Miami Beach in the wake of the megastar’s death the previous annum).
Therein I have always found the works alluring if not after a while repetitive. Moreover, I enjoyed this painter’s replacing figures from Western European history with youngish African American males and then implanting often luxuriant patterned backdrops. Wiley with a sense of expert timing even took up VH1′S baton and painted the works for their ” Hip Hop Honors” awards show and then painted everybody of the male variety internationally when for PUMA he rendered the teams of the world Cup. Continue reading
Spirals of Progress a Review
New Orleans Boom and Blackout opens with a hearse at the Superdome. In the hearse is an empty coffin. Behind is a long line of taxis. Like the coffin they are also passenger-less and stand empty and unrented. The drivers are protesting the new regulations for taxicabs in New Orleans. New credit card machines and surveillance cameras cost money, and everyone in New Orleans always feels stretched thinner than everyone else. Their representative begins to speak in front of the golden Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
The Mayor Mitch Landrieu isn’t at the Superdome. The cavalcade rides toward city hall where Landrieu starts the one-hundred-day countdown to the Super Bowl. He is focused on the future out beyond the crowd. He addresses the press and says, “The idea is to make sure that New Orleans shines its brightest light at this particular time when we are on the world’s stage.” After revitalizing Louis Armstrong Airport, the front door to the city, Landrieu wants tourists treated lavishly. Landrieu won’t have them sticking to dirty seats or haggling over fares. At the podium he proffers a clean and sunny future.
The cover of New Orleans Boom and Blackout (NOBB) shows 49ers cheerleaders mid-dance under the half dead lights of the blacked out Superdome. Tom Benson, the Saints, and the stadium play major roles in the main narrative. The book ends (around) Super Bowl Sunday. Brian Boyles gave me every reason to think NOBB is about football or at least about a very big football game. It isn’t. Instead Boyles explores the future myth of the new New Orleans, and Mayor Landrieu’s position in continuing the cyclic legacy of speaking of the nations oldest city in the future tense. Continue reading