Tuesday, November 18, 2008

ART: Kehinde Wiley

"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."Photobucket
Down”, Kehinde Wiley’s solo show at Deitch Gallery in New York City, opened this weekend, unveiling eight massive new paintings, and seals Wiley’s role as a master of figurative painting.
These pieces seem to be more feminine, alluring poses that challenge the idea of what is a “Hood Nigga”, or the ideology that is portrayed through mass media’s hysteria.


The paintings do have some focus on style, and brands. The choices of brightly patterned hoodies compliment the elaborate floral backgrounds, which all blends perfectly with the fashion. In “Sleep” and “The Veiled Christ”, the pieces reveal these perfect bodies in sort-of a super-human form. Which allows the figures to seem more saintly and
heroic than the rediculously ghetto stereotypes widespread in our culture. Its like Wiley himself is a prophet, gifted with a paintbrush and foretelling the dramatic shift America will undergo with the first election of an African-American man into presidential office only several days after his show opened.

Kehinde Wiley is a New York based painter who is known for his paintings of contemporary urban African American men in poses taken from the annals of art history.

Wiley’s paintings often blur the boundaries between traditional and contemporary modes of representation. The paintings build a bizarre pressure between background and content; revolutions happen the same way, pulling a society apart and putting it back together again. He creates a fusion of period styles, ranging from French rococo, Islamic architecture and West African textile design to urban hip–hop and the "Sea Foam Green" of a Martha Stewart Interiors color swatch. Wiley’s slightly larger than life size figures are shown in a heroic way, as their poses signify power and spiritual development.

The portraits are based on photographs of young men who Wiley sees on the street, that begun last year with men mostly from Harlem’s 125th Street. The series now includes models from the South Central neighborhood where he was born. They are asked to assume poses from the paintings of Renaissance masters, such as Titian and Tiepolo; his references to this style compliment his embrace of hip–hop. Similarly, the poses of his figures appear to derive as much from contemporary hip–hop culture as from Renaissance paintings. The paintings are in turn tools for unpacking the clichés that constitute reality, reminding us that propaganda sends mixed messages to the public. Wiley’s paintings, as posters, quote pre-existing visual sources, calling out the discontinuity of subjects from their contexts while creating a realm where the two co-exist. As propaganda, perhaps they question America’s own need for a cultural revolution.

Until now the ideas behind Mr. Wiley’s paintings has often overpowered their visual presence, which took away from the illustrations. Like Norman Rockwell’s paintings they looked better in reproduction than in reality. So are these just a passing art-market fancy, with enough witty mockery, a bit of political correctness, plus some decorations to look good for a while above the couches of fake ass liberals with little taste and a lot of money? I hope his art is a classic brand that will renew with the upcoming seasons. This 31 year old man’s 15 minutes of fame is nearing a 10 second countdown, and that 10 second countdown will launch him into becoming a common name known world wide, or a Platinum Fubu magic trick (“Now you see it everywhere, aaand Now you DoN’t!")


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