Los Angeles native and New York based visual artist, Kehinde Wiley has firmly situated himself within art history’s portrait painting tradition. As a contemporary descendent of a long line of portraitists, including Reynolds, Gainsborough, Titian, Ingres, among others, Wiley, engages the signs and visual rhetoric of the heroic, powerful, majestic and sublime in his representation of urban, black and brown men found throughout the world.
By applying the visual vocabulary and conventions of glorification, history, wealth and prestige to the subject matter drawn from the urban fabric, the subjects and stylistic references for his painting are juxtaposed inversions of each other, forcing ambiguity and provocative perplexity to pervade his imagery.
Wiley’s larger than life figures disturb and interrupt tropes of portrait painting, often blurring the boundaries between traditional and contemporary modes of representation and critical portrayal of masculinity and physicality as it pertains to the view of black and brown young men.
Initially, Wiley’s portraits were based on photographs taken of young men found on the streets of Harlem. As his practice grew, his eye led him toward an international view, including models found in urban landscapes throughout the world – such as Mumbai, Senegal, Dakar and Rio de Janeiro, among others – accumulating to a vast body of work called, “The World Stage.”
The models, dressed in their everyday clothing most of which are based on the notion of far-reaching Western ideals of style, are asked to assume poses found in paintings or sculptures representative of the history of their surroundings. This juxtaposition of the “old” inherited by the “new” – who often have no visual inheritance of which speak – immediately provides a discourse that is at once visceral and cerebral in scope.
Without shying away from the complicated socio-political histories relevant to the world, Wiley’s figurative paintings and sculptures “quote historical sources and position young black men within the field of power.” His heroic paintings evoke a modern style instilling a unique and contemporary manner, awakening complex issues that many would prefer remain mute.
Kehinde Wiley received his MFA from Yale University in 2001. Shortly after he became an Artist-in-Resident at the Studio Museum in Harlem. He is represented by Sean Kelly Gallery in New York, Rhona Hoffman Gallery in Chicago, and Roberts and Tilton in Los Angeles, His work has been exhibited international and is in the permanent collection of:
Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, TX
Mint Museum of Art, NC
Hammer Museum, CA
Milwaukee Art Museum, WI
The Brooklyn Museum of Art, Brooklyn, NY
Denver Art Museum, CO
Columbus Museum of Art, OH
Oak Park Public Library, Chicago, IL
The Studio Museum of Harlem, Harlem, NY
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN
Virginia Museum of Fine Art, VMFA
Johnson County Community College
Gallery of Art, Overland Park, KS
The Sender Collection, New York, NY
Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University
21C Museum, Louisville, Kentucky
Miami Art Museum, Miami, FL
Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, MI
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