Kehinde Wiley: Chances are, you’re already familiar with his work from Fox’s hit show Empire.
To describe Mr. Wiley’s work as eccentric would be erroneous, to label it simply erotic would be delusional to his brand’s esthetic. All-in-all, his paintings bring vigor and zest, and that makes a statement.
Chances are that you’ve spotted Kehinde Wiley’s colorful paintings splashed across social media and art news sites, your television (if you watched Fox’s Empire, Kehinde’s work is featured on nearly every wall inside of Luscious’s house), or most importantly, headlining museum exhibitions all across the world(currently headlined at The Brooklyn Museum). Kehinde has a love for color that matches perfectly with a Picasso, runs almost identical to Da Vinci’s hidden meanings, and bears a striking similarity to the dreamlike persona of Salvador Dali’s work, but despite the cliche comparisons, Kehinde’s brush clearly strokes in a league of its own.
On my radar for quite some time, as about 6 years ago, I was approached by one of his assistants while dining at one of my favorite Brooklyn restaurants, Thai 101, to be painted as one of his models/subjects. It never happened, but over the years I’ve watched him grow from a “painter of beautiful boys” to a groundbreaking staple of pop-culture. As if working with the likes of Ice-T, Swiss Beatz, and the late Michael Jackson weren’t enough, here’s my top three reasons why I, plus many more, gush over Kehinde Wiley’s work:
1.) King Me
Heroically depicted, Wiley’s larger than life size figures generally connote “power and spiritual awakening”. Evoking a shift between the ugly, thug dominated stereotypes of urban black youth, Kehinde scratches the surface off of their current conditions and reinforces them as powerful kings in heroic poses.
A paint brush well connected to the celebrity branding circuit, Wiley recently teamed up with Grey Goose to launch their new Le Melon flavor by painting a series of works called Modern Kings of Culture. Kehinde’s modern culture kings included NBA star Carmelo Anthony, critically-acclaimed director Spike Lee, and Grammy nominated recording artist Swizz Beats.
A job well done, Kehinde.
2.) Redefining Historical Imagery
Vibrant and sensational, Kehinde redefines classic works from historical figures like Phillip II, Anthony van Dyck, and Napoleon I, utilizing a stellar mimicking technique to redefine the societal standards that he feels brown people should immolate. As you’ll see through Kehinde’s imagary below, each of his subjects are depicted as historical past people in power.
Honorably, Wiley had been commissioned by Michael Jackson himself for a “massive portrait after the singer saw his work at the Brooklyn Museum of Art in 2008”. Though Michael died before the painting was completed, it is notably one of Wiley’s most iconic paintings to date. [Source: Billboard]
3.) Street Style
According to a piece published by the New York Times, “Kehinde Wiley began thinking about the stereotypes that shadow black men long before events in Ferguson, Mo., pushed the phrase ‘unarmed black man’ back into the headlines and inaugurated a new wave of the civil rights movement.”
But here’s the kicker, mostly all of his paintings feature everyday men (and most recently women), often times plucked straight off the streets of the world’s most popular “hoods” across the Americas, such as Harlem, NY and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, as well as cities throughout the African continent such as Morocco, Israel, and Lagos & Dakar. [Source: The New York Times]
On a side note, here’s an amazing article that sums up Mr. Wiley’s work as decadently as it deserves to be. Check it out here.
The exhibit, Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic, will be on exhibit at the Brooklyn museum from February 20th- May 24th, 2015.