The Toledo Museum of Art presents Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic, an exhibition of 60 paintings and sculptures questioning ideas of race, gender and the politics of representation. On view Feb. 10-May 14, 2017, A New Republic spans Wiley’s 14-year career including his earliest explorations of the male figure, his unique take on Old Master portraiture and his later forays into sculpture and iconography. The exhibition is organized by the Brooklyn Museum.
“The magnitude of this exhibition will impress even those familiar with Wiley’s work,” said Brian P. Kennedy, TMA director, president and CEO. “He has taken the grandeur of portrait painting and translated it with his portrayals of contemporary African American men and women. Wiley bridges the gap between traditional portraiture and our daily lives, and in doing so, he raises questions about identity and how we perceive ourselves and others.”
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.
“The Toledo Museum of Art is home to a wide array of singular masterpieces gathered together from across time and geographic regions,” said Halona Norton-Westbrook, TMA director of collections. “The museum’s strong collection of Old Master paintings offers a particularly compelling framework for the presentation of Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic. Playing with traditional conventions of European portraiture, Wiley examines symbols of power, wealth, status and identity in today’s world. Juxtaposing A New Republic with the Old Master portraits hung in TMA’s adjacent galleries provides context for Wiley’s work. Visitors will be encouraged to examine the paintings that inform his portraits through a new lens.”
The subjects in Wiley’s paintings often wear sneakers, hoodies and baseball caps, and are set against contrasting ornate decorative backgrounds that evoke earlier eras and a range of cultures.
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.
The exhibition includes a selection of Wiley’s World Stage paintings, begun in 2006, in which he takes his street casting process to other countries, widening the scope of his collaboration.
Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic is organized by Eugenie Tsai, the John and Barbara Vogelstein Curator of Contemporary Art, Brooklyn Museum. A fully illustrated catalogue published by the Brooklyn Museum and DelMonico Books • Prestel accompanies the exhibition.
This touring exhibition is made possible by the Henry Luce Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts and Grey Goose Vodka. Additional support is provided by Sotheby’s, Ana and Lenny Gravier, Sean Kelly Gallery, Stephen Friedman Gallery, John and Amy Phelan, Roberts & Tilton, and Pamela K. and William A. Royall, Jr.
The Toledo showing of A New Republic is presented in part by Welltower, a Toledo-based real estate investment trust (REIT) that provides capital to leading seniors housing operators, post-acute care providers and health systems.
This presentation of the exhibition is also made possible by members of the Toledo Museum of Art and a sustainability grant from the Ohio Arts Council. Admission to the Museum and to the exhibition, on view in Levis Galleries, is free.
For more information, visit toledomuseum.org or call 1-419-255-8000.