King’s Legacy Not Set in Stone

By Jonathan Adams May 20, 2008

H/T Too Sense Eugene Robinson writes in his column today about the controversy surrounding the statue of Martin Luther King commissioned by the US Commission on Fine Arts to serve as his national monument in Washington and compares the "confrontational" pose to "painter Kehinde Wiley’s epic canvases of young black men, in hip-hop garb, assuming noble poses from classic old-master works." Robinson writes,

What they thought they were getting, commissioners wrote, was a "dynamic" and "meditative" King. Leave aside for the moment the question of how any sculptor is supposed to make someone look dynamic and meditative at the same time. The point is that the arts commission, for some reason, was not comfortable with the image of a stern-faced, 28-foot-tall black man who has his arms crossed. That’s what Lei Yixin, one of China’s most celebrated sculptors, is concocting. There was grumbling from American artists, especially black American artists, that a Chinese sculptor was chosen to create our nation’s monument to King. Now, however, African American commentators are rushing to defend Lei’s "confrontational" vision — or, at least, to slam the arts commission for trying to make a righteously angry man look like Mister Rogers without the cardigan.