I have followed Kehinde Wiley for a number of years... I have always found his work to be interesting and thought provoking. I recently purchased his book published by Rizzoli and I find myself even more entranced by his paintings and photographs. I am still processing what his work means to me and I am interested if any of you have thoughts... please leave leave your thoughts as a post comment below!
By superimposing Art In America:
the opulent worlds of rulers and rappers, Wiley sought to visualize conventions for representing power in European portraiture on the surface of his paintings. Wiley recognized that “[t]he history of painting has been the history of those [powerful] men trying to position themselves in fields of power that are very defined and codified as a type of vocabulary that’s evolved over time…” The painter scripted black urban youth into this history in order to ripple its codified visual field. In so doing, he took care to represent his black male subjects in such way that they appear both within yet outside these defined vocabularies.
Wiley, by portraying his subjects within the conventions of portraiture but not carrying this through the entire painting, allows the illusion of portraiture to arise and then dissipate on the surface of the work. His figures inhabit the surface of the canvases, between visibility and invisibility. They appear both luminescent and transparent, statuesque and ephemeral, photorealist and abstract, present and absent: accidental inhabitants of history on the verge of disappearance.
-Krista Thompson, “The Sound of Life: Reflections on Art History in the Visual Culture of Hip-Hop”, The Art Bulletin, December, 2009
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