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.
The Brooklyn Museum of Art, Brooklyn, NY
Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, OH
Denver Art Museum, Denver, CO
Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, MI
The Flag Art Foundation, New York, NY
The Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA
Harn Museum of Art, Gainesville, FL
High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA
The Jewish Museum, New York, NY
Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Ithaca, NY
Kansas City Art Museum, Kansas City, MO
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA
Memorial Art Gallery, Rochester, NY
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
Miami Art Museum, Miami, FL
Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, WI
Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minneapolis, MN
Mint Museum of Art, Charlotte, NC
Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Fort Worth, TX
Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA
Nasher Museum of Art, Chapel Hill, NC
Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Overland Park, KS
North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, NC
Oak Park Library, Chicago, IL
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, PA
Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix, AZ
Portland Museum of Art, Portland, OR
The Rubell Family Collection, Miami, FL
San Antonio Museum of Art, San Antonio, TX
Seattle Museum of Art, Seattle, WA
The Sender Collection, New York, NY
The Studio Museum of Harlem, New York, NY
Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, OH
21C Museum, Louisville, KY
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, VA
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN
The Zabludowicz Collection, London, England
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