So you all know that we, over here on Taxidermy and the 20th Century, love things oldey-timey. But we don’t just love the unusal ancient things and spend all of our time poring over old books and old things and old stuff. Sometimes, we like to see how the ancient and the traditional merges with the modern, and that’s how I give you Kehinde Wiley. Wiley likes the same things that we do here at Taxi20: the old and the new. However, he takes it a step further. He gives people of black heritage, specifically those with an African American culture, the same sort of traditional paintings that white people have had throughout their history.
I mean, anyone who has studied Art History or European History (or perhaps even World History) can recognise the painting to my left. It’s Napoleon crossing the Alps to lead his French soldiers into battle against the other empires of Europe. It’s a painting that clamours of glory and pride, and Kehinde Wiley repaints it with a major change; we see that a camo-donned African American has taken the place of Napoleon.
Suddenly, Kehinde Wiley has placed a member of his own race as the leader of national pride and liberty. By mixing these two different ideas of black culture and classical portraiture, Wiley brings the gift of classical pride to blacks. He’s shouting that his culture and heritage is something to be proud of!
Wiley doesn’t just paint African Americans, though. He paints also Afro-Brazilians, Ethiopian Jews, and a whole slew of other varieties of people with black heritage. We live in a modern world that is both teeming with racism and adamant that the issue is one of the past, not of today. But as retroverts and antiquophiles (two new words I have made up), the bloggers here at Taxi20 can tell you that the past and the present are deeply intertwined. It’s motions like this, where black culture is given the same pride and status as classical white culture, that help to blur the boundaries that exist in society today.
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