On Sunday, December 13, 2015, during a beautiful overcast and pleasantly cool day, I decided to visit the current exhibition at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic is a huge exhibition that takes up the entire second floor of The Modern. Luckily, the overcast skies kept the amount of art patrons attending the exhibition to a low number and allowed me to really explore each and every painting.
Kehinde Wiley, born in Los Angeles, came to a realization while studying art history and the great works of art: the lack of representation for people of color. Kehinde has recreated great works of art with a modern twist. The subjects portrayed in Kehinde’s paintings are common subjects, everyday people, that are represented in a grand and beautiful manner. The backgrounds alone are beautiful to look at, and, honestly, if his paintings were just that, I would find the art exhibition to be just as beautiful.
The subjects in Wiley’s paintings recreate the pose of a great work of art while standing in front of beautifully intricate and colorful backgrounds that immerse the subject delicately combining both in a surreal manner. The paintings at the beginning of the exhibition—part of the Rumors of War collection—has some of the most beautiful backgrounds with intricate gold leaf and silver leaf detail. The frames for the Rumors of War collection were also designed by Wiley and are beautifully ornate and detailed. One of the most noted recreations is the painting Napoleon Leading the Army Over the Alps, 2005. In it, Wiley recreates the iconic painting of Napoleon by Jacques-Louis David, Napoleon Crossing the Alps, 1800-1.
A lot of the paintings in the exhibition are huge in size, some taking up the entire wall, including the painting Morpheus, 2008, which is a recreation of the sculpture Morpheus, 1777 by Jean-Antoine Houdon. The large size of the paintings amplified the detail and grandeur of these amazing works of art. Included in the exhibition were bronze busts, one of which had a bronze New Balance sneaker on its head (how cool is that!), and back lit stained-glass paintings which were displayed in one of the museum’s narrow wings giving the impression of entering a chapel.
There is a short video, as part of the exhibition, in which Wiley gives a brief explanation of his art and a quick description of the process. He basically poses the models, takes a series of photographs, superimposes the photograph onto a colorful digitally designed background, and once he’s satisfied with the combination he begins the long arduous process of painting the image. Very cool. My favorite painting out of the whole exhibition was Saint John the Baptist in the Wilderness, 2013. In it, a beautiful young woman wears a colorful dress, has a peaceful expression on her face, and has a pose that is both commanding and warm.
Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic will be on exhibition at The Modern until January 10, 2016. This is one art exhibition definitely worth viewing, so be sure to visit before it’s gone.