VISITING THE DAILY SHOW, Kehinde Wiley discussed his recent projects with host Trevor Noah. Wiley explained the symbolism of “Rumors of War,” his largest work to date depicting a young black man with dreads, wearing a hoodie and Jordans, astride a horse. Standing 27 feet high, the monumental work debuted in Times Square in New York City in September.
During the Jan. 23 appearance, the artist and comedian also talked about “Jacques-Louis David Meets Kehinde Wiley,” his new exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum. The conversation emphasized the power of Wiley’s portraits and their ability to engage and connect with people who see themselves in his work. He described as “images of dignity and grace”:
Kehinde Wiley’s monumental work was unveiled in Times Square on Sept. 27, 2019, where it was on view for two months. In December, the bronze monument was moved to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond. Shown, KEHINDE WILEY, “Rumors of War,” 2019 (patinated bronze with stone pedestal, Overall: 27 feet 4 7/8 inches H x 25 feet 5 7/8 inches L x 15 feet 9 5/8 inches W). | Photo by Kylie Corwin for Kehinde Wiley
Wiley on Confederate Monuments and ‘Rumors of War’
“These sculptures were designed to remind African Americans of their place in society and they’re still in major parts of the South. I went to Richmond on a trip and I saw one of these sculptures and I said, ‘You know what? This is a language that’s powerful and it’s one that I want to be able to use to inhabit it, to haunt it.’ So I found several African American men, merged all of their features, created this kind of everyman on a horse and recreated those monuments for the 21st century. To create a new way of saying, ‘Yes,’ to people who happen look like me.”
Wiley on Displaying His Work Alongside David
“We’re actually dealing with a historical conversation. I’m borrowing the same pose from a painting that was made by (Jacques-Louis) David during the time of Napoleon, and now I’ve got a young black man in jeans, oh, excuse me, he’s wearing camouflage, and Tims, and he’s embodying that sense of Brooklyn bravado, but within the language of great European paintings. What I wanted to do was to be able to have the original historical object and my object in the same room. And the Brooklyn Museum said, ‘Yes.’ So now we have an opportunity for the first time to have this temporal shift, this rift. This ability to look at not just some guy whose playing with history, but the object from the past in the same room. It’s a great honor.”
KEHINDE WILEY (American, born 1977), “Napoleon Leading the Army over the Alps,” 2005 (oil on canvas, 108 x 108 inches / 274.3 x 274.3 cm). | Brooklyn Museum, Partial gift of Suzi and Andrew Booke Cohen in memory of Ilene R. Booke and in honor of Arnold L. Lehman, Mary Smith Dorward Fund, and William K. Jacobs Jr. Fund, 2015.53. © artist or artist’s estate, Photo courtesy Brooklyn Museum
The interview begins with Wiley explaining the concept for his portrait of President Barack Obama, the stress he felt when the painting was unveiled at the National Portrait Gallery (Obama saw it for the first time on stage at the ceremony), and what inspires his portraits of women.
Next month, “Kehinde Wiley: The Yellow Wallpaper” opens at the William Morris Gallery in East London. It’s Wiley’s first solo show of new works in a UK museum and his first museum exhibition presenting all female portraits. CT
“Rumors of War” (2019) was installed in front of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Dec. 10, 2019, where it will remain on permanent display
“The Obama Portraits” will be published next month. “Kehinde Wiley: Trickster” is forthcoming in April. “Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic” documents the artist’s 10-year survey organized by the Brooklyn Museum. Released last year, “Kehinde Wiley: Saint Louis,” accompanied an exhibition at the Saint Louis Art Museum.
Kehinde Wiley appeared on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah on Jan. 23, 2020. | Video by The Daily Show
A trailer-style look at Kehinde Wiley’s “Rumors of War” (2019) in Times Square (Sept. 27-Dec. 1, 2019). | Video by Times Square Arts
Rumors of War: The backstory on Kehinde Wiley’s monumental project, scenes from the unveiling in Times Square, and leadership support from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (the institution that acquired it). | Video by myVPM (Virginia Public Media)
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