Rewriting the art canon: Kehinde Wiley's triptych for Penn Station, NYC
"I like Venetian painting a lot: looking at Giovanni Battista Tiepolo is one of my favourite things to do. When I went to my first Venice Biennale, I was blown away when I saw the works of these artists on the ceilings. The technical proficiency impressed me." - Kehinde Wiley
Although these days our lives are mostly confined within the domestic walls, the time will come again when we get to enjoy the thrill of being in a public space that has been elevated by art. You know, that sense of wonder we experience when we enter an everyday place to find it has been beautified by the work of an artist.
The fabulous Kehinde has created "Go" a back-lit, hand-painted triptych on stained glass, which graces the ceiling of the Moynihan Train Hall at NYC's Penn Station. In true Wiley style, this site-specific installation captures the city's diversity and celebrates Black culture. The Californian artist unleashes his vision of modern America, which is represented here by uber cool young break-dancers who appear to be floating across the bright blue sky. They are bouncing off the clouds, they are happily breakdancing their way to heaven. Once excluded from any sort of artistic representation, Wiley's black and brown figures are shown as today's gods.
I am asking myself whether Wiley is rewriting the art canon or whether the canon, like society itself, is just evolving and rewriting itself. For his work is no simple appropriation, and heaven knows we have seen enough of that, but rather a continuation of the classical tradition. Whichever the case, "Go" is joyous, dynamic, different, vibrant and looks absolutely magnificent.
New Yorkers (you know who you are), go and check this out for me, please. Go float with Kehinde and let me know what you have seen.
Giovan Battista Tiepolo
Apollo and the Continents - Europe (detail), c. 1752