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A New Republic: The portrait work of artist Kehinde Wiley

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Blending and contrasting contemporary clothes and objects with ornate fabrics, lush plant life, detailed patterns, and bold colors that reference earlier eras of art history, Kehinde Wiley‘s heroic portraits are larger than life. On canvas, in sculptures, or depicted in stained glass, his subjects are framed with empathy and grandeur. From the Brooklyn Museum in 2015:

The works presented in Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic raise questions about race, gender, and the politics of representation by portraying contemporary African American men and women using the conventions of traditional European portraiture…

Kehinde Wiley paintings

The works presented in 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.

Napoleon Leading the Army over the Alps, 2005
As of February 12, 2018, Wiley is probably best-known for his painting of the 44th President of the United States Barack Obama. It was revealed at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery along with artist Amy Sherald‘s portrait of First Lady Michelle Obama. The two portraits will join the museum’s complete collection of American presidential portraits.

Kehinde Wiley

TEACHING RESOURCE from the Brooklyn Museum:
Kehinde Wiley. Napoleon Leading the Army over the Alps, 2005

Dive deeper with more art and museums with these:
• Relighting Seurat’s Circus Sideshow (Parade de cirque)
• The meticulous work that goes into running the Museum of Modern Art
• Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors
• The Challenge of a Straight Line and ‘Making Art Concrete’

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