Known for his virtuosic portrayals of Diasporic Africans, including the official portrait of President Obama, Kehinde Wiley has diversified portraiture, updating its symbolic vocabulary to disrupt the cultural assumptions attached to skin color. His work is delicate yet forceful, both steeped in art history and critically of the moment.
The Los Angeles-born, New York-based artist’s widely recognized portraits weigh the dynamics of power, culture, and historic narratives. His works reimagine classic European portraits by replacing their subjects with black and brown men and women he personally identifies from various US cities and the capitals of Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Caribbean, and Latin America.
At the core of Kehinde Wiley’s practice is an analysis of the intersecting points between cultural and aesthetic values and existing historical narratives. In this charged moment, these discourses reveal how relations of power produce, sustain, and reinforce particular interpretations of transcultural exchanges and subject positions.
A hallmark of his career, Wiley was selected by President Barack Obama to paint his official portrait for the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. The Smithsonian museum’s first presidential portrait by an African American artist was unveiled in February 2018.
He recently presented “Rumors of War,” his first public artwork, in New York City’s Times Square before the sculpture was permanently installed at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond.
Wiley’s monumental bronze sculpture is the artist’s direct response to the ubiquitous Confederate sculptures that populate the United States, particularly in the South, and the violence afflicted against bodies every day.
Wiley’s work presents a powerful visual repositioning of young black men in our public consciousness while directly engaging the national conversation around controversial monuments and their role in perpetuating incomplete narratives and contemporary inequities.
Situated above Yoff Bay in the bustling, vibrant city of Dakar, Senegal, Black Rock seeks to address the imbalance of the dominant media narrative concerning Africa. The residency brings artists to a waterfront compound to live and work, where each spends 1-3 months creating new work and experiencing the local culture.
Named for the volcanic black rocks that line the property’s shoreline, Black Rock also includes a personal residence and studio space for Wiley, as he seeks to divide his time between New York and West Africa and interact with the artists in residence.
The multi-disciplinary artist residency program is designed to bring together an international group of visual artists, writers, and filmmakers for a period of self-reflection, practice development and cultural exploration and cross-cultural collaboration.
Black Rock provides residents with a local staff to assist in navigating Dakar and a language tutor to assist with English, French, and Wolof –the three primary languages of the program. Residents will additionally be offered a modest stipend for incidentals and additional art supplies.
One of the most unique elements of the program is the opportunity to engage with Dakar and its surrounding areas. Dakar is well known for its abundance of fresh seafood which is brought into the city daily by local fishermen. Senegalese cuisine is reflective of the nation’s primary influences and is marked by its fusion of North African, French, and traditional Wolof elements. The predominant religion in Senegal is Islam, although there is also a Christian presence in Dakar.
Senegal is widely known for its mbalax music, a fusion of traditional percussive instrumentation with a wide variety of international dance music influences. In addition to its long standing musical history, Senegal has a strong history and community within the plastic arts which incorporate both traditional and contemporary influences and promote collaborative, cross-disciplinary practices. Starting in 2002, the Biennial of Contemporary African Art, DAK’ART has further established the city’s vital presence within the international art landscape.
We encourage opportunities to host open studios, attend cultural events, visit and learn from local artists, and hold screenings in the library. Our staff works closely with Black Rock artists to identify potential collaborations and suggest events that may be of interest to them throughout their stay.
"Our mission is to support new artistic creation through collaborative exchange and to incite change in the global discourse about what Africa means today."
The inaugural list of 16 artists, selected from more than 700 applications, work in a variety of disciplines, including painting, sculpture, photography, film, and one writer.
A panel of leading artists and curators selected the residency participants, including artists Mickalene Thomas and Carrie Mae Weems; Thelma Golden, director and chief curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem; Christine Riding, head of the curatorial department at The National Gallery in London; Thomas Lax, curator of performance and media art at the Museum of Modern Art in New York; and Swizz Beatz, the artist, collector, and music producer.
The international slate of artists is diverse and boasts a variety of creative and cultural backgrounds — for example, nine of the sixteen artists are women.
Yagazie Emezi is a Nigerian artist and self-taught photojournalist focused on stories surrounding African women and their health, sexuality, education and human rights. Based in Lagos and having worked extensively across Africa, she also covers stories on identity and culture, social justice, climate change and migration.
Nona Faustine is a Brooklyn-based photographer and visual artist whose work seeks to answer to, correct, and reclaim an American history loaded with untold truths. She focuses on history, identity, representation, and evoking a critical and emotional understanding of the past, and proposes a deeper examination of contemporary racial and gender stereotypes.
Devin B. Johnson works with the traditional media of painting and sculpture, yet finds harmony with digital age of contemporary art. Based in Los Angeles, he paints from improvised, freestyle digital collages sourced from personal and historical imagery arranged into fictional, sentimental situations.
Brooklyn-based artist Tunji Adeniyi-Jones uses figurative painting as a means to explore West African history and its associated mythology. He renders colorful and vibrant bodies that are larger than life, taking inspiration from both his Yoruba heritage and his British upbringing.
Laurence Bonvin is a photographer and video artist based between Berlin, Germany and Switzerland. Her practice, which has a strong documentary base, has been centered on the transformations of urban peripheries, of natural and social landscapes, on segregation, human displacements and architecture of power.
Sonya Clark is a textile and social practice artist whose work draws from the legacy of crafted objects and the embodiment of skill. Based in western Massachusetts, she uses textiles, hair, beads, combs, and sound to address issues of justice and identity and explore the legacy of craft, history and race.
Heather Jones’s work questions and pushes traditional conceptions of both quilt making and painting by exploring the formal possibilities of color and design, often through geometric and striped compositions. She is interested in the historical and socio-political relationship between women and textiles, and explores the relationship between gender, place, time, and culture. She currently lives on a farm outside Cincinnati.
Grace Lynne Haynes is a Los Angeles-born painter and designer who centers her work around the modern day Afro-American woman and her relationship to femininity. Based in New Jersey, she strives to explore the intersections between culture, color, femininity and the African Diaspora at large.
South African artist Zanoxolo Mqeku‘s work embraces sand casting, a method of fabrication that is unconventional and rarely explored within ceramic art. His ideals are fluid in reference; the surfaces of his finished forms may imply both plant and animal fossils, shells, African symbolism, extra-terrestrial materials and found objects.
Kelechi Njoku started writing stories based on folktales at the age of nine. He currently lives in Lagos, where he is a senior editor at independent publishing house Kachifo, copy editor at literary and cultural criticism magazine Bakwa, and co-founding editor at Nigeria’s first LGBTI literary collective, 14.
Chelsea Odufu is an award winning Nigerian, Guyanese, American filmmaker who fuses her passion for culture and afro-futurism to highlight the uniqueness of underrepresented groups on screen. Based in New York, she has directed content for brands including Cadillac, Gillette Venus and Fiverr and worked for Spike Lee on his projects “Chi-Raq” and “She’s Gotta Have it.”
Kambui Olujimi is a New York-based visual artist working across disciplines using installation, photography, performance, tapestry, works on paper, video, large sculptures and painting. His artwork reflects on public discourse, mythology, historical narrative, social practices, exchange, mediated cultures, resilience and autonomy.
Zohra Opoku examines political, historical, cultural, and socioeconomic influences in the formation of personal identities, particularly in the context of contemporary Ghana. Based in Accra, her practice centers around its traditional textiles and dress codes, which are an inherent part of the country’s identity and industry.
Rafael RG is a visual artist and writer whose practice focuses on sexual and affective relationships and their political implications as well as issues of racial identity. Working with institutional and personal archives, he presents his research through workshops, installations, performative texts, publications and objects. He lives and works between Belo Horizonte and Salvador, Brazil.
Tajh Rust’s compositions break down the traditional barriers between interiors and exteriors, conveying the threshold of liminal space. The works weave in and out of figuration and abstraction to emanate psychological space while elements are pulled from the everyday world to flip our expectations, engaging a state between realism and surrealism. He currently lives and works in New Haven, CT.
Ytasha L. Womack is a Chicago-based author, filmmaker, dancer and independent scholar. Her book Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci Fi & Fantasy Culture is a Locus Awards Nonfiction Finalist and taught in universities around the world. She has also created an Afrofuturism Dance Therapy program and lectures on Afrofuturism and the imagination around the world.
VIP event at Black Rock in Senegal
Unique brand leadership experience at Black Rock in Senegal
Launch event with Kehinde Wiley
Advertising commission by Kehinde Wiley
Brand-sponsored public artwork by Kehinde Wiley
Sponsorship of one or more artists-in-residence, with or without naming rights
US and/or traveling exhibition sponsorship featuring one or more artists-in-residence
US event sponsorship featuring one or more artists-in-residence
Studio visits with emerging artists (Senegal or worldwide)
Press coverage and name association with Kehinde Wiley
Shareable content generated from various activations
Recognition of efforts to promote diversity and inclusivity and to correct contemporary inequities
Onsite cultural exchange for brand leadership and/or consumers in Senegal
Association with and access to an elite community of up-and-coming artists
The application cycle for Black Rock Senegal 2020-2021 closed on August 31, 2020 and the selection committee is currently evaluating applications.
In light of circumstances related to COVID-19, Black Rock anticipates welcoming its Year 2 class of residents in Autumn 2020, or when it is deemed safe to do so.
Black Rock is just the start of Kehinde’s desire to support artists and adding Africa to the world’s roster of prestigious art residencies. Connecting to his Nigerian heritage Kehinde is also working with Ghanaian British architect Sir David Adjaye on a forthcoming studio in Lagos.
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