Kehinde Wiley has employed the classic bust as a new medium in his explo- ration of the sacred and secular themes of the Renaissance and Baroque. Wiley’s portrait references give new meaning to embedded codes of gesture and dress, past and present, while provoking a reconsideration of lingering stereotypes about masculinity, race and class in our society today.
Although, Kehinde Wiley’s works reference specific paintings by Titian and Tiepolo, he draws from a range of art historical and vernacular styles in his compositions, from the French Rococo to the contemporary urban street. Wiley collapses history and style into a uniquely contemporary vision. He describes his approach as ‘interrogating the notion of the master painter, at once critical and complicit.’ He makes figurative paintings that ‘quote historical sources and position young black men within that field of ‘power.’’ His ‘slightly heroic’ figures, sometimes larger than life size, are depicted in poses of power and spiritual awakening. He deliberately mixes images of power and spirituality, using them as a filter in the portrayal of masculinity.
After receiving his MFA from Yale in 2001 Kehinde Wiley began exhibiting at Deitch Projects in New York and the Rhona Hoffman Gallery in Chicago. His exhibition Infinite Mobility recently appeared at the Brooklyn Museum in New York and is traveling to The Columbus Museum. He opened a new exhibition of paintings at Rhona Hoffman on September 8, 2006.
The first bust, Louis XVI, the Sun King, is a Bernini influenced, Baroque style composition positioning a young man dressed in contemporary urban street attire styled as a 17th century monarch. The heroic pose is vigorously alive and imperious. The cloak, or hoodie in this case, is swept up, as if by a gust of wind, and the figure turns with resolute composure in the direction of the wind, as if calmly facing a challenge.
Kehinde Wiley, Louis XVI, the Sun King, 2006
Edition of 250, hand signed and numbered, cast marble dust and resin, 10” h x 9.5” w x 3” d / 25.4cm h x 24.3cm w x 8cm d.
Item no. 12151
The second Neoclassical bust, St. Francis of Adelaide, was influenced was Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingre’s stained glass window, St. Francis of Ad- elaide in Paris at The Chapel of Saint Ferdinand. The strong, proud, athletic young man is dressed in street attire and holding a symbolic book and scep- ter. He appears as a learned monarch. His soul searching contemplative eyes have the feeling of Cezanne’s “Still Life with Skull” or Rogier van der Weyden “Portrait of a Man Holding a Book.” The composition is familiar but the influences are beyond easy recognition. The philosopher appears as a hero in pursuit of revealing the universal truth in the 21st Century.
Kehinde Wiley’s, After La Négresse, 1872 , 2006, is influenced by Jean-Bap- tiste Carpeaux’s “La Négresse, 1872” or, as inscribed on the base, “Porquoi! Naître esclave!”( “Why born a slave”). The original female torso’s rope bound exposed breasts have multiple meanings. An emblem of womanhood, sen- suality, nurture, emotional warmth, intimacy, and domesticity. On the other hand, the exposed breast developed historically into a symbol of political liberty. The ropes across the bare chest seem barely able to contain the young woman’s energy and allegorically link the exposed breast to 19th Century discourses of slavery and emancipation. Wiley beautifully appropriated the symbolic gestural power and energy of the composition utilizing a confident, strong athletic young man in “After La Négresse, 1872”. He brings the view- ers gaze toward the Michelangelesque sideward turn, while a Los Angeles Lakers NBA jersey metaphorically binds the figure, creating the analogy that many young urban men may believe that professional sports may be a path of emancipation.
Kehinde Wiley, After La Négresse, 1872, 2006,
Edition of 250, hand signed and numbered, cast marble dust and resin 11” h x 10” w x 9”d / 27.94cm h x 25.4cm w x 22.86cm d
Item no. 12153
The Gypsy Fortune-Teller, 2007
Jacquard tapestry in Italian cotton and Italian viscose
76 x 102 in. (193.04 x 259.08 cm.)
Signed; by hand and numbered on verso. Accompanied by a signed certificate of authenticity.
Ed 48 + 10 APs
Kehinde Wiley, Saint Francis of Adelaide, 2006.
Cast marble dust and resin Edition 250, hand signed and numbered. 12 x 10 x 5.5 inches