Kehinde Wiley

col platoff on his charger kehinde s

My daughter and I went to see Kehinde Wiley’s show at the Brooklyn Museum in May.

naomi and her daughters kehinde s

When he was a newly minted MFA, working for The Studio Museum in Harlem, he conducted an after-school bookmaking workshop for students and their parents/caregivers at my daughter’s elementary school.  We enjoyed it, and remembered him, and when a positive review of his paintings appeared in the newspaper a few years later, we were pleasantly surprised.

kehinde napoleon s

Wiley is known for his huge paintings that riff on the work of European Old masters by placing African-Americans in street clothes in a similar setting.  There were plenty of these in the show, and they are impressive.

kehinde 1s

But the first paintings we encountered were small luminous reflections on Icons–work we hadn’t seen before.

memling portrait kehinde s

The artist also works in stained glass and sculpture, continuing the theme of commenting on the classical canon of Art History while using contemporary people of color as models.

kehinde sculpture comp

One criticism leveled at Kehinde Wiley in reviews of his show at the Brooklyn Museum was that he uses assistants to paint his backgrounds.  Considering the fact that the “classic” painters he’s riffing on in his work did then same thing, and then just the sheer size of many of the paintings…well, I disagree.  It’s only recently in history that the cult of the individual artist as a god-like figure has appeared.  The identity of much of the world’s most beautiful and moving artistic creations is either unknown, or known to be collaborative in origin, even when attributed to a single artist.

kehinde stained glass st remi s

The other criticism I’ve heard frequently is that Wiley keeps repeating himself.  Yes and no.  I was surprised by much of what I saw, at both the variety and the visible changes.  The work is continuous, but also evolving.

mugshot study kehinde s

And if you’ve stayed with me this long, you may want to know:  yes, I did save the book from that workshop.

book open comp

kid_grown up comp

Here are some of the references for Kehinde Wiley’s work pictured above:

Jacques Louis David, James Ward, George Dawes

Jacques Louis David, James Ward, George Dawes

Hans Memling and Icons

Hans Memling and Icons

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About memadtwo

For more madness, follow me on Instagram @h_zimel

7 responses to “Kehinde Wiley”

  1. Laura @ Createarteveryday says :

    hehe! Love the comment about helping the Mets win! 😀 Almost the All-Star break…..seems they’re doing well. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. memadtwo says :

    Why am I not surprised that you have the book?


  3. Ann says :

    Thank you for a great post! I just spent a delightful hour perusing his website.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. segmation says :

    Artist Kehinde Wiley is restoring power and respect to humanity through art. How? By reinventing classic portraits in a way that honors black individuals.

    Liked by 1 person

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