At a towering three stories tall, Kehinde Wiley’s bronze sculpture “Rumors of War” is an epic vision among the skyscrapers of Times Square. Unveiled at the end of September, the statue is the first work of public art from Wiley, the artist behind President Obama’s official portrait.
The sculpture, on view through Dec. 1, depicts a young Black man riding gallantly on top of a horse — a visual reference to the type of equestrian portraiture found in war monuments. The piece serves as Wiley’s direct response to Confederate statues found throughout the United States.
“The story starts with going to Virginia, seeing the monuments that line the streets, being in this Black body; looking up at those things that give me a sense of dread,” Wiley said at the reveal, continuing, “to walk a public space and to have your state, your country, your nation say ‘this is what we stand by.’ No. We want more; we demand more. We creative people create more. And today, we say ‘yes’ to something that looks like us.”
After its stint in Times Square, the sculpture will be moved to Richmond, VA., where it will be permanently installed.
“What Kehinde Wiley is doing here so brilliantly,” Time Square Arts’s Jean Cooney told ALL ARTS, “is offering a solution, an alternative; leveraging the power of our monuments to reflect, reinforce our values, possibly re-imagine our world and tell more complete and inclusive narratives about our present.”
Top Image: Kehinde Wiley’s first public sculpture, "Rumors of War." Photo: Ka-Man Tse for Times Square Arts.