As a poet and photographer, I usually draw inspiration from many sources—whether it’s in the mundane and pressing moments of life or in the work of painters and other visual artists.
Brooklyn Museum is one of my favorite museums in NYC. I recently learned that they’d be featuring Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic, an exhibition opening up this February. According to their site, the works in this exhibition “raise questions about race, gender, and the politics of representation by portraying contemporary African American men and women using the conventions of traditional European portraiture.”
Kehinde Wiley (American, b. 1977). Shantavia Beale II, 2012. Oil on canvas, 60 x 48 in. (152.4 x 121.9 cm). Collection of Ana and Lenny Gravier, courtesy Sean Kelly, New York. © Kehinde Wiley. (Photo: Jason Wyche)
Upon first browsing the portraits on Wiley’s site, I was immediately taken by the backgrounds surrounding each subject—the vibrant colors and textures that invite you to really see and feel them, while experiencing the subject in the artwork.
Archival Inkjet Print on Hahnemuhle Fine Art Paper 30″ X 24.5″ © Kehinde Wiley
In “The World Stage” series he features people from a number of different countries that all seemingly have certain global and political significance. The models are usually wearing regular clothes and are posed based on poses found in old European paintings and sculptures.
Portrait of Anne Cynthia Petit Vil, 2014
Oil on Linen 60 X 48 Inches © Kehinde Wiley
I’m very interested in learning more about Wiley’s motivations behind replacing images European aristocrats and slaveowners with contemporary Black subjects. I love the idea of shifting of power dynamics so as to insist upon Black subjects truly being seen, as well the opportunity his work creates for questions and dialogue.
You can read more about Wiley’s background and work here and check out the February-May 2015 exhibition schedule of events on the BK Museum exhibition page. I’ll definitely be checking out the exhibition next month. Let me know if you do, too!