Kehinde Wiley is a prolific contemporary artist whose works push the boundaries of portraiture. According to his bio,
“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 heroic, powerful, majestic and the sublime in his representation of urban, black and brown men found throughout the world.”
Since late February, a large portion of the artist’s work has been on display at the Brooklyn Museum in an exhibit called Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic. In this collection of works, questions are raised about the intersection of race and gender, as well as what the museum describes as “the politics of representation by portraying contemporary African American men and women using the conventions of traditional European portraiture.” This vibrant, contemplative exhibition features sixty paintings and sculptures created at various points throughout the Wiley’s fourteen-year career.
According to the Brooklyn Museum, “Wiley’s signature portraits of everyday men and women riff on specific paintings by Old Masters, replacing the European aristocrats depicted in those paintings with contemporary black subjects, drawing attention to the absence of African Americas from historical and cultural narratives,” of the drive behind the artist’s work.
Now more than ever, given the current cultural climate and social unrest in response to ongoing police brutality against young African American men, it is vital that perspectives like Wiley’s be shared. For so much of history, the experiences of people of color have been stifled by white perspectives, and Wiley’s art is a direct response to that.
For more information about the exhibit, be sure to visit the Brooklyn Museum’s current exhibitions page.
Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic
Through May 24, 2015 at the Brooklyn Museum