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Kehinde Wiley at Brooklyn Museum

  • 102 x 300 in. (259.1 x 762 cm). Courtesy of Sean Kelly, New York. © Kehinde Wiley
February 20, 2015

Kehinde Wiley’s A New Republic exhibition will present the selection of works by this extraordinary American artist from his World Stage paintings series. Wiley is well-known for his portraits of contemporary African American women and men, using the conventions of traditional European portraiture. With firm political statement behind his works, Wiley examines the narratives on the position of African American people in history and society. On first sight, these portraits are expressionistic, with cheerful colors dominating the composition. Yet, they carry a strong critical approach, often directed to the well-embedded stereotypes on the usual notions about the contemporary position of African American people. Kehinde Wiley’s exhibition at Brooklyn Museum will show the artist’s works created in the last nine years.

Kehinde Wiley - Femme piquée par un serpent, 2008, Oil on canvas
Kehinde Wiley – Femme piquée par un serpent, 2008, Oil on canvas

The Art of Kehinde Wiley

Wiley’s work is concentrated on portraits. What characterizes his painting is a quite naturalistic approach, representing African American people in different contexts. He often uses famous and old master’s paintings for portraying his figures. Central to his work are the questions of race, gender and the politics of representation. However, his paintings are not dealing with these questions with caricatures or cynicism. Wiley goes much deeper in deconstructing the image of African Americans in historical and cultural narratives. His desire is to represent the absence of African Americans from these narratives, letting the viewers to reflect on what the reasons for that might be. So, when he is dealing with the race and politics of representation, Wiley actually examines the reasons for absence of representation of African American people, and the politics standing behind this representation. The main figures he portrays are regular people “from the street”. Through the process of so-called “street casting”, he invites ordinary individuals, usually strangers, to sit for portraits. The artist and the model began a collaborative working process, in which the model may choose the reproduction of a painting from a book and to reenact the pose of the figure from the chosen painting. At the New Republic Kehinde Wiley’s exhibition, the visitors will be able to see the products of this unique artist-model relationship.

Left: 79½ x 79½ x 3½ in. (201.3 x 201.3 x 8.3 cm). The Studio Museum in Harlem; Museum purchase made possible by a gift from Anne Ehrenkranz. © Kehinde Wiley / Right: 96 x 43½ in. (243.8 x 110.5 cm). Courtesy of Galerie Daniel Templon, Paris. © Kehinde Wiley
Left: Kehinde Wiley – Conspicuous Fraud Series #1 (Eminence), 2001, Oil on canvas / Right: Kehinde Wiley – Saint Remi, 2014, Stained glass

Kehinde Wiley’s New Republic

Kehinde Wiley’s Brooklyn Museum exhibition is some kind of retrospective of the core of this artist’s work. Although Wiley’s main medium is painting, he also creates sculptures, yet with same motifs, approaches and styles as it is the case with the paintings. In the last few years, Wiley has expended his work, by taking the “street casting” to other countries as well, widening the scope of his collaborations. In his paintings, the subjects wear sneakers, baseball caps, hip-hop culture props and they are set against contrasting ornate decorative backgrounds, usually associated with earlier eras and different cultures. Sometimes you will see an African American man or woman replacing the European aristocrat from specific paintings by Old Masters.

Left: 96 x 84 in. (243.8 x 213.4 cm). Hort Family Collection. © Kehinde Wiley. (Photo: Max Yawney) / Right: 108 x 108 in. (274.3 x 274.3 cm). Collection of Suzi and Andrew B. Cohen. © Kehinde Wiley. (Photo: Sarah DiSantis, Brooklyn Museum)
Left: Kehinde Wiley – Two Heroic Sisters of the Grassland, 2011, Oil on canvas / Right: Kehinde Wiley – Napoleon Leading the Army over the Alps, 2005. Oil on canvas

Kehinde Wiley’s New Republic Exhibition at Brooklyn Museum

The Kehinde Wiley’s Brooklyn Museum exhibition will include an overview of the artist’s fourteen-year long career and it will feature sixty paintings and sculptures. The special catalogue will be published for the show. The must-see Kehinde Wiley’s New Republic exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum, New York will be on view from February 20th until May 24th.

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Left: 34 x 26 x 19 in. (86.4 x 66 x 48.3 cm). Brooklyn Museum; Frank L. Babbott Fund and A. Augustus Healy Fund, 2012.51. © Kehinde Wiley. (Photo: Sarah DeSantis, Brooklyn Museum) / Right: 96 x 72 in. (243.8 x 182.9 cm). Collection of Pamela K. and William A. Royall, Jr. © Kehinde Wiley. (Photo: Jason Wyche)
Left: Kehinde Wiley – Houdon Paul-Louis, 2011, Bronze with polished stone base / Right: Kehinde Wiley – The Two Sisters, 2012, Oil on linen
Left: 96 x 72 in. (243.8 x 182.9 cm). Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond; Arthur and Margaret Glasgow Fund, 2006.14. © Kehinde Wiley. (Photo: Katherine Wetzel, © Virginia Museum of Fine Arts) / Right: 96 x 72 in. (243.8 x 182.9 cm). Collection of Pamela K. and William A. Royall, Jr. © Kehinde Wiley. (Photo: Jason Wyche)
Left: Kehinde Wiley – Willem van Heythuysen, 2005, Oil and enamel on canvas / Right: Kehinde Wiley – The Sisters Zénaïde and Charlotte Bonaparte, 2014, Oil on linen

All images courtesy of Brooklyn Museum.