Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic is putting African Americans in a New Light

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Catch Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic at the Seattle Art Museum February 11-May 8, 2016. Kehinde is an African American artist who uses his paintings to push others to think outside of the norm. The New York Times called him “one of the most celebrated painters of his generation”. As an educated man who studied at Yale, Kehinde took interest in identity politics. He has since then formed a way of leaving perception of art to the viewer. His specialty being portraits, he has a way of modernizing ancient history with his art. Portrait style art has been around for a long time, but Kehinde has taken it to another level. Wiley has done portraits of everyday African American men, rappers, and sports figures. He has also done some religious art in which he injects people of color as biblical figures.

It is empowering to see people of color celebrated on museum walls. Kehinde’s work could possibly project differences in how we as human beings perceive the world. This exhibit is a must see for children, families and those with a good eye for quality paintings. It’s a great thing, especially for African American youth, to see a display of art relative and representative of them. Wiley’s bold pieces capture the essence of African Americans with vibrant expressions. His signature floral printed backgrounds can often make his pieces recognizable. Kehinde’s art also gives us a way to push away negative stereotypes of black men and see them in a more positive light.

In 2005 Kehinde painted a portrait of Napoleon leading the army over the alps. This portrait is definitely a must see. Far different from the historical images of Napoleon we would normally see, this painting casts him as a man of color. Similar to the traditional painting of Napoleon leading the army, he is sitting on a horse with one arm pointed upward. In Wiley’s painting he’s dressed in more modern apparel, but still obviously suited for war with camouflage printed clothing. This vibrant piece of art shows Napoleon with masculine and confident posture as well as a serious look in his eyes.

Kehinde has gone from a young man capturing portraits in New York, to a brilliant artist spreading his gift of art with the world. Wiley’s paintings have not only appeared in museums and institutions around the country, but have also been seen on the set of the hit Fox show “Empire”. This exhibit is Seattle African American history in the making. Art lovers, history lovers and African American history enthusiasts are sure to enjoy these large and life-size portraits on display. It is rare and quite difficult to find art with a blend of historic and modern tones, but Wiley has mastered this. For nearly 3 months his beautiful paintings are displayed and available for all of Seattle to see.

By JaVohn Perry

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