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Kehinde Wiley


by Charlie Finch
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As I check the dizzying amount of fine art information available at and various blogs, changing by the minute during the day (along with Twitter or Facebook, which I don't do), the nullifying effect of this cultural tsunami is instantaneous, eliminating any future considerations of just about anything exhibition-wise.

Take this year's Whitney Biennial, which most critics (not me) adored. It was cozy, changeable, full of performance, worth multiple visits and, after a week, had no impact whatsoever. There were no reports from the performance front, no updates on that woman who moved in to the Whitney, no video reviews, zip.

Follow-up coverage consisted of speculation as to whether Vincent Gallo (one of the chosen artists) ever showed up, and notes that some performances continued after the show officially closed and that someone won the ridiculous and instantly forgotten Bucksbaum Award. How can you create a revolutionary show if no one notices, because noticing art these days is measured in disposable seconds?

This is why I don't want Kehinde Wiley's exhibition at the Jewish Museum to disappear even before it closes on July 29, 2012. Up 'til now I have loved Kehinde as a person, not so much his art, but, by expanding his paisley fields until they overwhelm his majestic youngbloods and making color a metaphor for the liberating future of cross-identity, Kehinde envisions a true road to world peace. If everyone shares a chunk of the gorgeous mosaic, tribalism, prejudice, sectarianism, war and the desire for war will disappear.

When this show opened, right away the identity vultures jumped all over Kehinde: black, Jewish, Muslim, straight, gay, blah blah. In his copious scouting of his models at clubs in Israel, Kehinde took huge flack about his intentions, distrust was rampant. Yet, Wiley triumphed, creating Jacques-Louis David-style epics, stripped of tragedy, making decorative classicism the most positive clarion of a better future since the young Francis Picabia painted machines.

So don't let the waves of tomorrow morning's art news wipe out the significance of this show, in message and content one of the greatest ever.

Kehinde Wiley, “The World Stage: Israel,” Mar. 9-July 29, 2012, at the Jewish Museum, 1109 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y.

CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).