Old Master Hip Hop

Jillian Russo, “Review: Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic,” Panorama: Journal of Association of Historians of American Art, Fall 2015 (1.2).

In Jillian Russo’s review of Kehinde Wiley’s survey exhibition, A New Republic, you are taken on a detailed journey through the many series that Wiley has produced within his career. Russo’s depictions allow the readers to submerse themselves in the exhibition as if they were walking alongside her. With that in mind, there is a progression in Russo’s tone and delivery. She simply follows the chronological order of things and never really detracts from that direction or structure. As far as her objectivity is concerned, Russo remains fairly objective as whole, but in her critiques her use of “glorified” and ”elaborate” detail presents a noticeable sense of biased conclusion. In reference to the installations around Wiley’s Saint Gregory Palamas, Russo infers. “Juxtaposing the sacred and the commercial, bronze portrait bust installed nearby appear as counterpoints to the saintly imagery. Solid and weighty the statues seem encumbered and branded by their contemporary attire such as Nike sneaker or comb placed on top of a head or straps of a backpack.“ (Russo) An outwardly, intense way of stating that something compliments another wouldn’t you say?

Despite seeming slightly biased at times, Russo’s colorful detail helps the reader hone in on the main ideas and theses, like in her reference towards Wiley’s Rumors of War series where she incorporates Wiley’s own acknowledgments:

“Wiley acknowledges that he deliberately creates “a high-priced luxury good for wealthy consumers,” which appeals “to the aesthetic principles of a very elite social class whose aesthetic references are about exclusion, not inclusion, it’s an absolute celebration of decadence and empire.” In addition to attracting collectors, the paintings have a clear appeal for museums. The work addresses a diverse public and the artist’s use of historical references creates a dialogue with existing collections.”

This ability to subliminally flatter but otherwise provide an alluring yet mildly objective detail offers a refreshing view on the exhibition. You feel part of what is being experienced largely through the enamored enthusiasm that Russo sporadically lays into her review from time to time.

-Joseph Warren


Kehinde Wiley, RUMORS OF WAR



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s