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. 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.
Following its New York showing, the exhibition will travel to the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas (16 October 2015 - 10 January 2016), the Seattle Art Museum, Washington (12 February - 8 May 2016), and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Virginia (3 June - 5 September 2016).
Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic is organized by Eugenie Tsai, 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 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, John and Amy Phelan, Sean Kelly Gallery, Stephen Friedman Gallery, Roberts & Tilton, and Pamela K. and William A. Royall, Jr.
The exhibition runs from 20 February until 24 May 2015.