On Friday, in a raucous celebration that included a high school marching band, an equestrian monument was unveiled in Times Square.
Soaring nearly 30 feet in the air against the nabe’s backdrop of digital signboards, Rumors Of War, as it’s titled, follows in a tradition of man-astride-horse sculptures dating back to antiquity. Instead of a king or emperor, however, Wiley’s version features a young African-American male in contemporary dress.
Sporting a hoodie, Nikes and braids tied in a topknot, he rides his rearing stead while defiantly looking over his shoulder. The pose is heroic and very much of apiece with similar renderings of Confederate generals found throughout the South—which is exactly the point.
At the end of the year, Rumors Of War will depart for its permanent home in front of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, VA. There, it will be a stone’s throw away from the city’s Monument Avenue, which is lined with memorials to Robert E. Lee, J.E.B. Stuart, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson and Jefferson Davis. Wiley’s work is essentially a middle finger extended at those encomiums to the “Lost Cause” and the others like them that have become lightning rods of protest during the Trump era.
Until December 1, though, Rumors Of War will be Times Square, where the nearest statues are of the far less controversial George M. Cohan and Father Duffy.