Kehinde Wiley

Milwaukee Art Museum

Posted by Thomas Alix Johnston in Blog, 2 comments


…its traditions, beauty, and our expectations of Democracy.

When, about a month after we had our second vaccination shot, and the country was beginning to see advances in defeating the pandemic, we ventured out, first, to La Conner, Wa. which was in the early stages of emerging from a year of isolation. We went north to see a show by Louise Kikuchi in nearby  Edison; in addition to her beautiful Sumi-e paintings she was showing a group of traditional Kokeshi dolls she painted to reflect events of January 6, 2021. The Kokeshi wore masks and the pedestals were arranged following social distancing guidelines.

In June we cautiously took a flight, masked, to visit family in Chicago. We arrived just as the city was lifting the mask mandate and some were anxious to have their faces exposed. There was such a sense of hope in the air, though my feeling was that many people (the majority) weren’t ready to go mask-less in public. On our first visit to a museum in over a year, The Art Institute had just adopted optional mask wearing for vaccinated visitors though it was evident that most of the visitors chose to continue masking-up, especially noticeable in the popular exhibition of Monet that was just ending. The following week, on June 18th, the celebrated Obama Portraits, Barack by Kehinde Wiley, and Michelle by Amy Sherald, opened to enthusiastic  audiences. We joined others in a responsibly masked and socially distanced line as we advanced to the gallery to see these two beautiful paintings.

We went to the opening of Chicago Comics at the Museum of Contemporary Art, surveying Chicago based cartoonists and artists working in this genre since the 1960s. It is always refreshing to see works in person, especially those of Lynda Barry, and to discover a different aspect of Kerry James Marshall’s creative output.

A visit to Chicago wouldn’t be complete without a visit to former Seattle gallerist Mariane Ibrahim’s new gallery. A compelling show of works on paper by Philadelphia based artist Ruby Onyinyechi Amanze was showing in this elegant space.

We took advantage of the beautiful late spring weather to explore some parts of the city on foot. One such walk along the lagoons south of the Museum of Science and Industry took us through restored prairie to a Japanese garden and Yoko Ono’s only public sculpture, Skylanding. Another walk that has become a favorite is through Ping Tom Memorial Park, with native prairie and wetlands along the Chicago River.

That was our first time out in public, in a major city, one that had seen upheaval the previous summer. Even though we felt we were emerging from the changes of the past year, it was very noticeable, how many businesses remained shuttered, and how relatively empty the streets were, especially in a major American city.


Posted by Thomas Alix Johnston in Blog, 1 comment
Kehinde Wiley – Rumors of War

Kehinde Wiley – Rumors of War

We were in NYC this past September; The Whitney Biennial was in its final days, Greta Thunberg spoke at the Global Climate Conference at the UN, and as expected, there was a wealth of exhibitions and cultural events to see and experience. There were several shows we had specifically planned to see, Amy Sherald, Vija Celmins, Sarah Sze, Richard Serra, the Biennial, as well as several visits to The Met. We stopped in to see a show at the Ford Foundation, as well as several shows in galleries in Chelsea, including the inaugural exhibitions at Pace Gallery’s new building, one of which was a survey of works by Alexander Calder.

This post features Kehinde Wiley’s Rumors of War on the day it was unveiled in Times Square. Much has been written about this artwork, its beauty and significance. I’m including links to articles, from among many, about this powerful artwork: Hyperallergic and My Modern Met

Rumors of War was on view in New York through early December and has just been installed at its permanent location at The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, Virginia. See Washington Post article.


Posted by Thomas Alix Johnston in Blog, Words, 1 comment