Opening on September 20 and running through January 10, 2016, the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth presents Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic, an overview highlighting the range of the artist’s prolific 14-year career and comprising approximately 60 works. Ever since our cover story with Kehinde in January 2010, we have been so excited to see the astronomical rise of the artist’s career. He has become both a blue chip staple and museum star, and it’s all so great.
The exhibition begins with early examples of paintings inspired by Wiley’s observations of street life in Harlem; these images of African-American men mark the onset of his focused exploration of the male figure. In subsequent work, Wiley further examines the European tradition of portraiture, taking specific paintings by renowned masters such as Titian, Van Dyck, and Manet and replacing the historical subjects with contemporary, young black men sporting fashionable urban gear. These likenesses are set against ornate, decorative backgrounds on large canvases — part of Wiley’s signature style — in order to raise issues of class in addition to race and gender. A New Republic also includes a selection from the artist’s ongoing World Stage project, examples of his bronze busts, and a chapel-like structure that showcases his new stained-glass “paintings.”