Thursday, November 5, 2009

Kehinde Wiley

Since I first discovered Kehinde Wiley at Art Basel in 2005, I have been absolutely obsessed with his work. His paintings are amazingly detailed, incredibly large and the images literally leap off the canvas.  The juxtaposition of the Rococo and Renaissance styled details with contemporary figures makes them even more alluring.  His work is both visually and intellectually stimulating, I highly recommend seeking out a visit to one of his openings!  In the meantime, get to know the amazing Kehinde Wiley...

 Kehinde Wiley (above)


Kehinde Wiley (American, b. 1977). Napoleon Leading the Army over the Alps, 2005. Oil on canvas. Collection of Andrew Cohen
"Painting is about the world that we live in. Black men live in the world. My choice is to include them. This is my way of saying yes to us."—Kehinde Wiley

Historically, the role of portraiture has been not only to create a likeness but also to communicate ideas about the subject's status, wealth, and power. During the eighteenth century, for example, major patrons from the church and the aristocratic class commissioned portraits in part to signify their importance in society. This portrait imitates the posture of the figure of Napoleon Bonaparte in Jacques-Louis David's 1801 painting Bonaparte Crossing the Alps at Grand-Saint-Bernard (Musée du Château de Malmaison, France). Wiley transforms the traditional equestrian portrait by substituting a young Black man dressed in urban street gear for the figure of Napoleon. Wiley thereby confronts and critiques cultural traditions that do not acknowledge the experience of urban Black culture. His approach presents a new brand of portraiture that affirms Black identity and simultaneously questions the history of Western painting.

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