A New Welcome to the Commonwealth
Kehinde Wiley (born 1977) is an American artist known for repositioning black youth within the classical European tradition of power and status. With Rumors of War, he expands this concept while directly engaging the national conversation around monuments and their role in perpetuating incomplete histories and inequality.
As a direct response to the Confederate statues that line Monument Avenue in Richmond, Wiley conceived the idea for Rumors of War when he visited the city in 2016 for the opening of Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic at VMFA. Rumors of War takes its inspiration from the statue of Confederate Army General James Ewell Brown “J.E.B.” Stuart created by Frederick Moynihan in 1907. As with the original sculpture, the rider strikes a heroic pose while sitting upon a muscular horse. However, in Wiley’s sculpture, the figure is a young African American dressed in urban streetwear. Proudly mounted on its large stone pedestal, the bronze sculpture commemorates African American youth lost to the social and political battles being waged throughout our nation. – VMFA
Like art, I invite you to take time & reflect at each point.
Observation: What is it that you see, hear and feel?
Displaying valor, Kehinde Wiley’s statue was meant to represent everyday royalty of the African American male and to me also and the strength of the horse he rides.
Observation: How do you interpret both of these?
Rumors of War is a sure turn from the markings of confederate monuments standing in Richmond.. To some their presence has desensitized what slavery was and did and yet to others it is a horrible reminder of past reality and its effects.
Observation: Are there any notable significance of the rider and the horse? If so, how might they be relative to the counter to the reminders of the confederacy and specifically the standing monuments?
What could this pose reflect, historically? Futuristically?
This colossal monument in New York and Virginia’s Commonwealth, visually speaks to me that the Emancipation Proclamation is completed, Civil War and the events preceding the time of slaves entering America in 1619. I found that it speaks “of” and “to” all humanity, that no one is in suppression to another, every man is free. Every man equal; masters of ourselves except the Creator.
Through this virtual experience has your perception changed from any prior imagery, concept or idea? If so, in what way?
“In these toxic times art can help us transform and give us a sense of purpose. This story begins with my seeing the Confederate monuments. What does it feel like if you are black and walking beneath this? We come from a beautiful, fractured situation. Let’s take these fractured pieces and put them back together.”