Commanding the expansive ceiling of the 33rd Street Midblock Entrance Hall, Kehinde Wiley’s hand-painted glass triptych celebrates the vibrancy and virtuosity of bodies in motion at monumental scale. Go is an exuberant depiction of young, Black New Yorkers in poses drawn from breakdance, the modern dance style, which originated on the streets of New York during the 1960s and 70s among African American and Latino youth. Wiley draws on the classical European tradition of frescoed ceilings, using a pronounced foreshortening technique (often associated with 18th century master Giovanni Battista Tiepolo) to create the impression of figures ascending to the heavens above. He captures them mid-gesture, against billowing clouds in a brilliant blue sky, lunging and twisting in poses that embody the combination of precision, athleticism, and expression inherent to this acrobatic style of performance. Wiley casts his subjects in roles traditionally reserved for saints and angels, depicting them instead as unique individuals attired in their regular streetwear. These contemporary avatars of the sublime are awesome in their gravity-defying abilities, yet familiar to any subway rider; an image of joy at the intersection of the epic and the intimate. Go extends the metaphorical language of light and divinity to reveal the talent, beauty, and power of Black bodies. Translating the urban environment into a celestial dreamscape, Wiley communicates an optimistic spirit of buoyancy, possibility, and survival.
Commissioned by Empire State Development in partnership with Public Art Fund.
Kehinde Wiley gratefully acknowledges Brad Ogbonna, Chelsea Guerdat, David Muller of DCM Fabrication, Dee and Ricky Jackson, Dominick Conetta of DUN-RITE Specialized Carriers, Gabriella Wilks, Janine Cirincione, Jesenia Pineda, Jey Yaro, Jitka and Richard Kanta of SKLO, John Fedoroff, John Thomas, Kylie Corwin, Lya Pouleyy, Malak Lunsford, Rosey Selig-Addiss, Sable Boykin, Sarina Martinez, Sasha Boykin, Sean Kelly, and Taquane Butler.