Exhibit | Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic

Colonel Platoff on His Charger by Kehinde Wiley (American, b. 1977). Colonel Platoff on His Charger, 2007–8. Oil on canvas, 122 x 122 in. (309.9 x 309.9 cm). Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth; Gift of the Director’s Council and Museum purchase, 2008. © Kehinde Wiley

The art of Kehinde Wiley perfectly describes the times: it is bold, beautiful, and beguiling, taking us to the point of no return like a classic 1980s song. It is the pure pleasure of the painted surface taken to new heights, situating it amongst the masterpieces of European art and giving it a distinctive twist that reflects Wiley’s contemporary California roots.

Born in Los Angles in 1977, Wiley earned his BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1999 and his MFA from Yale in 2001, immediately followed by a residency at the Studio Museum in Harlem, which launched him on the New York stage and introducing him to the world.

Kehinde Wiley (American, b. 1977). Anthony of Padua, 2013. Oil on canvas, 72 x 60 in. (182.9 x 152.4 cm). Seattle Art Museum; gift of the Contemporary Collectors Forum, 2013.8. © Kehinde Wiley. (Photo: Max Yawney, courtesy of Roberts & Tilton, Culver City, California)

Kehinde Wiley (American, b. 1977). Anthony of Padua, 2013. Oil on canvas, 72 x 60 in. (182.9 x 152.4 cm). Seattle Art Museum; gift of the Contemporary Collectors Forum, 2013.8. © Kehinde Wiley. (Photo: Max Yawney, courtesy of Roberts & Tilton, Culver City, California)

Wiley was immediately embraced, and his career soared to stratospheric heights, all with the world cheering by his side. In January of this year, Wiley was presented with the US State Department Medal of the Arts. With a prolific career that spans 14 years, Wiley has produced a mid-career retrospective, “Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic” showing at the Modern Art Museum of Fort worth September 20, 2015–January 10, 2016.

Comprising approximately 60 works, the exhibition begins with early examples of paintings inspired by Wiley’s observations of street life in Harlem; these images of African-American men mark the beginning of his exploration of the male figure in Western art, and offering a new way in which to view the heroic, romantic figures of art history.

Kehinde Wiley (American, b. 1977). Shantavia Beale II, 2012. Oil on canvas, 60 x 48 in. (152.4 x 121.9 cm). Collection of Ana and Lenny Gravier, courtesy Sean Kelly, New York. © Kehinde Wiley. (Photo: Jason Wyche)

Kehinde Wiley (American, b. 1977). Shantavia Beale II, 2012. Oil on canvas, 60 x 48 in. (152.4 x 121.9 cm). Collection of Ana and Lenny Gravier, courtesy Sean Kelly, New York. © Kehinde Wiley. (Photo: Jason Wyche)

The grandeur of a Wiley painting rivals that of all whom have ever held the brush, undertaking large-scale canvases to transformative effect. Over the past fourteen years, Wiley has taken the art world by storm with his fresh, fly, and fearless style that redefines the iconography of power and prestige, casting black men and women in the works of masters including Titian, Anthony Van Dyck, Edouard Manet, Hans Memling, Jacques-Louis David, and Peter Paul Rubens. The result is a mélange of references that spans several centuries, creating a cohesive vocabulary of poses that Wiley’s subjects assume with a naturalness that flatters subjects and the viewers alike.

Through the process of “street casting,” Wiley invites individuals, often strangers he encounters on the street, to sit for portraits. In this collaborative process, the model chooses a 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.

Kehinde Wiley (American, b. 1977). The Two Sisters, 2012. Oil on linen, 96 x 72 in. (243.8 x 182.9 cm). Collection of Pamela K. and William A. Royall, Jr., courtesy of Sean Kelly, New York. © Kehinde Wiley. (Photo: Jason Wyche)

Kehinde Wiley (American, b. 1977). The Two Sisters, 2012. Oil on linen, 96 x 72 in. (243.8 x 182.9 cm). Collection of Pamela K. and William A. Royall, Jr., courtesy of Sean Kelly, New York. © Kehinde Wiley. (Photo: Jason Wyche)

The exhibition also includes a selection from Wiley’s ongoing World Stage project in which he takes his casting process to other countries, featuring s selection of bronze busts, and a chapel-like structure showcasing his stained-glass “paintings.”

By casting young black men and women across a spectrum of styles in European art, Wiley creates a powerful global sensibility, one that captures the imagination and takes hold with its drama, glamour, and prestige. Wiley understands the relationship between iconography and power, and the responsibility the artist bears when wielding the paintbrush in hand. For fourteen years, Wiley has given the people what they want and never fails to disappoint. “A New Republic” will inspire, surprise, and delight.

Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic” is showing at the Modern Art Museum of Fort worth September 20, 2015–January 10, 2016.

Miss Rosen is a New York-based writer, curator, and brand strategist. There is nothing she adores so much as photography and books. A small part of her wishes she had a proper library, like in the game of Clue. Then she could blaze and write soliloquies to her in and out of print loves.