I spent August 5 at my favorite Richmond spot–The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. I went specifically to see the featured exhibit: Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic. Mr. Wiley is known for his paintings of black men and women, posed in the style of other famous Western portraits. To do many of these epic paintings, he used “street casting,” where he found subjects near the Studio Museum in Harlem and had those subjects choose an historical work of art from art books, often Old Masters paintings. The subject would pose in the manner of the chosen historical work; Mr. Wiley would take photographs and use those photographs to do a large painting. (information taken from VMFA Exhibit plaque) The painting in the detail picture is Napoleon Leading the Army Over the Alps, a stunning work, based on the painting by Jacques-Louis David.
The paintings in the exhibit have a palpable force and a majestic quality. Subjects stare from the canvas with sometimes uncomfortable honesty. Mr. Wiley seeks to place young black men in positions of power in the paintings, thus helping to point out the lack of black representation in western art.
There are also a number of smaller portraits in the exhibit. These more intimate paintings are quite beautiful, and I found them to be as powerful as the larger works.
The exhibit is up until September 5, 2016. If you get a chance, do get by to see it.