It was Memorial Day weekend, the very last day of the exhibit, but I was determined to make my way to A New Republic; I’d been promising myself since February that I would see it. It was hot. I stickily walked down from my apartment to the Brooklyn Museum with my camera strapped tightly over one shoulder. I didn’t really know what it was about, but I knew it was “really good”, in that way that your friends tell you when they want you to see it for yourself. I wasn’t quite prepared. I needed to see paintings like this, sculptures and stained glass windows like this. Not simply because I’d never seen them before, but because I could connect with them. My cover photo was the first sculpture that I came across. Cast in bronze with the sneaker seemingly holding him down, I feel as if I’ve made that face before. I knew some of the expressions in those paintings, expressions you see every day on faces around you, and those faces were now made beautiful.
Kehinde Wiley finds ordinary citizens on the street below his studio and paints phenomenal portraits of them, often from a photograph they posed in earlier. They strike classic renaissance postures, then Kehinde masterfully does his work.
A New Republic challenges your perception of what art is. Every time you’ve seen something art like it, there has been no diversity. And while there’s been so much passing, depression, and pain, lately, Kehinde Wiley’s A New Republic is everything I want to see again. I needed A New Republic.
In case you missed A Subtlety by Kara Walker last year, it’s another equally powerful exhibit.