There’s a baroque richness to Wiley’s (huge!) paintings that puts him on par with the old masters, but his subjects are very modern. His Officer is a black man, circa right now, dressed in Timberland boots, baggy jeans and a wife-beater, brandishing a cavalry saber and looking back from the saddle of a rearing horse. It was completely unexpected, and so awesome that I couldn’t stop grinning.
Every time we go back, I revisit Officer of the Hussars, and it always makes me smile. When I heard that Wiley’s art was coming to TMA, I knew we had to go, and I’m really glad we did.
A New Republic is 60 paintings, sculptures, and other pieces spanning Wiley’s entire career. I never knew he was so prolific and worked in so many media! Besides paintings, there were bronzes, triptychs painted on wood, and even stained glass, all in the same old-meets-new style, and all featuring young black and brown people as subjects.
I am not an art expert, and I’m totally unqualified to tell you much more about Kehinde Wiley. Just know this: he’s a top-notch artist who portrays his subjects in a positive and dignified way. He blends the art world with modern urban culture, in a way that’s bound to connect with people who might not otherwise come into a museum. If you’re near Toledo, I hope you come and see the exhibit. A New Republic runs through May 14, 2017.