Kehinde Wiley, only 38 years old but with a career spanning 14 years, already has his own retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum, and rightly so. The works in Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic feature young black subjects in poses associated with historical paintings. In Napoleon Leading the Army Over the Alps, a man wearing camo, Timberland boots, and a bandana sits on
a rearing white horse. The resemblance
is hardly uncanny; though the thematic skeletons are similar to those of the old masters, each of Wiley’s subjects has a character entirely of his or her own. The contrast of newness and oldness, rendered in vibrant colors, calls attention to the gaping absence of people of color in classical painting. Wiley cast his subjects by asking men and women he met on the street to sit for him. He also let them choose which iconic painting they would inhabit, emboldening the idea that representation and choice are crucial.
Feb. 20-May 24, 11 a.m., 2015