Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Keepin' It Real With Kehinde

He Can Paint and Make a Statement

Kehinde Wiley
Randerson Romualdo Cordeiro, 2008 (from The World Stage: Brazil)
Oil on canvas, 48 x 36 in.
Courtesy of Roberts & Tilton, Culver City, CA

If you have plans next Thursday, April 2nd, say 7 p.m.-ish, break them! Artist Kehinde Wiley will speak at the Getty Center about his work and his upcoming exhibition, The World Stage: Brazil, at Roberts & Tilton in Culver City. Wiley has been one of those artists that I have admired for several years now. His fresh approach to painting and dynamic use of historical references makes him one of the brightest and most innovative artists out there.

(Above) Jacques Louis-David's Bonaparte Crossing the Alps at Grand-Saint-Bernar, 1801

After receiving his M.F.A. from Yale in 2001, Wiley made a name for himself by painting large-scale canvases of young African-American males reenacting religious and classical portrait poses of centuries past (you know, the ones that were only reserved for the rich, powerful and obnoxiously white.) His artistic repertoire also includes some notable Hip Hop sitters, including Ice T, LL Cool J and Grandmaster Flash. Empowered by the medium of the masters along with a skilled hand, Wiley invites the models to come by his studio and flip through various art history books that he has collected through the years. The models are then instructed to pick their favorite paintings and poses, thereby allowing them to envision themselves in a specific scenario or environment that they feel coincides with their individual personalities. And then Wiley takes care of the rest. He sets up a mesmerizing dialogue between himself, the [historical] artist, as well as the sitter. The end result is portraiture with vivid personality, buttressed with contemporary elegance and class that is befitting of Hip Hop royalty. Even if the subject matter does not strike you, the self-evident triumph of technique will. Trust me, these works will blow your mind!

(Above) Kehinde Wiley's Napoleon Leading the Army over the Alps, 2005

Kehinde Wiley, The World Stage: Brazil, April 4 – May 30, 2009 at Roberts & Tilton, 5801 Washington Blvd., Culver City; Phone: (323) 549-0223; Opening Reception Saturday, April 4th, 6 – 8p.m.

Kehinde Wiley on His Art and Its Influences lecture Thursday, April 2, 2009, at the Getty Center, Harold M. Williams Auditorium, 1200 Getty Center Dr. Los Angeles, CA; Phone: (310) 440-7300; Admission: Free; reservations required.