Our final installment of this year’s Black History Month artist series features Kehinde Wiley, a New York-based visual artist and painter famously known for his approach to realism.
Wiley’s work portrays urban "black and brown" people in heroic, powerful, larger-than-life poses. The paintings often blur the boundaries between traditional and contemporary styles and the portrayal of masculinity and physicality as it relates to the perception of black and brown young men.
Wiley’s paintings were initially based on photographs found on the streets of Harlem. Over time, however, Wiley was led toward an international approach, featuring models found in other urban parts of the world such as Senegal, Mumbai, and Rio de Janeiro.
Kehinde’s models are asked to assume poses found in paintings or sculptures that represent the history of their surroundings. His heroic paintings exhibit a modern style in a unique and contemporary manner, subtly addressing complex issues that many would prefer remain undiscussed. Focusing on the socio-political history of the world, Wiley’s paintings and sculptures “quote historical sources and position young black men within the field of power.”
Kehinde Wiley’s work is found in many public collections throughout the world, including the Minneapolis Institute of Art; Brooklyn Museum; Detroit Institute of Arts; Kansas City Museum; The Jewish Museum (New York) in New York, New York; High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia; Los Angeles County Museum of Art in Los Angeles, California; Hammer Museum, in Los Angeles, California; and the Milwaukee Art Museum among many, many others.