Virginia has a lot of Black history and a lot of it is not expressed in its statues and monuments, but a new statue in Richmond aims to change that. According to CBS News, the Confederate “Lost Cause” narrative is reflected in hundreds of statues across Virginia, including several along Richmond’s Monument Avenue.
Now a unique statue is on display at the Virginia Museum of Fine Art that reflects Black history and an African-American future. It’s called Rumors of War by artist Kehinde Wiley. The 42-year-old once visited Richmond and was so impressed by the city and the statues, he said he had to create something to counter the overwhelming sense of Confederate history there and the absence of people of color on similar pedestals.
VMFA Curator Valerie Cassel-Oliver says Wiley’s bronze sculpture is not just about Black history but also about how African-Americans are seen by society.
“It is about status, it is about memorializing and in that respect, it gets somewhat extracted from the historical context of enslaved peoples here and more about how we edify, how do we celebrate how do we memorialize the everyday person, especially African-American men,” she said. The rider is a young man wearing modern urban clothes and natural hair.
A museum statement notes that the bronze sculpture also commemorates the African-American youth lost to the social and political battles being waged across the nation. If Wiley’s work looks similar to the JEB Stuart Confederate statue in Richmond, it’s deliberate.
“He was always inspired by the Confederate statues along Monument Avenue, and he was always taken by the equestrian. It is a classical form within the art canon,” Cassel-Oliver said. She also says Wiley is known for bringing two art forms together, classical European and young urban America, no matter the media he is using.
Wiley has art hanging in the museum as well. Wiley’s Rumors of War is on permanent display at the VMFA. It faces the United Daughters of the Confederacy headquarters, which is located next door. Wiley is known for painting the official portraits of former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama.