Above: Femme piquee par un serpent, 2008. Oil on canvas, 102 x 300 in. (259.1 x 762 cm). Courtesy of Sean Kelly, New York.
Known for melding traditional European painting practices with observed street life -- with subjects found in Harlem, China, Israel, Africa, and beyond -- Kehinde Wiley's exquisite portraits earned him the U.S. State Department Medal of Arts earlier this year. The medal is awarded for substantive commitment to the US State Department's cultural diplomacy outreach through the visual arts. His defiant, sumptuous, sexual portraits are at the center of the retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum's Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic.
RELATED | Kehinde Wiley's The World Stage: Israel
Wiley's street-clothed models seemingly reach out from their baroque filigreed and floral backgrounds, presenting the viewer with aspects of past and present in the best possible way. Bronze busts and the artist's stained glass "paintings" will accentuate the message of the contemporary representation of race, power, and politics.
Until recently he only painted men, but now he's added female subjects to his work (including elaborate wigs by Dee TrannyBear). When we asked him how he convinced young, ostensibly straight men, to sit for such charged portraits during his last exhibit, Wiley told Out: "Going into the streets of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv to find my models, I found a very different type of Israel than I imagined. There is something about beauty and desire, the gaze that's involved. There's something about being chosen out of everyone else on the streets that says you're beautiful enough to be in this painting."
The exhibition is on view through May 24. Brooklyn Museum, NYC.
Anthony of Padua, 2013. Oil on canvas, 72 x 60 in. (182.9 x 152.4 cm). Seattle Art Museum; gift of the Contemporary Collectors Forum, 2013.8.
Support the Rural Population and Serve 500 Million Peasants, 2007. Oil and enamel on canvas, 72 x 60 in. (182.9 x 152.4 cm). 21C Museum, Louisville, Ky.
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.
Colonel Platoff on His Charger, 2007-8. Oil on canvas, 122 x 122 in. (309.9 x 309.9 cm). Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth; Gift of the Director's Council and Museum purchase, 2008.
Leviathan Zodiac, 2011. Oil and gold enamel on canvas, 95 3/4 x 71 3/4 in. (243.2 x 182.2 cm). Collection of Blake Byrne, Los Angeles, courtesy of Roberts & Tilton, Culver City, Calif.
Saint Remi, 2014. Stained glass, 96 x 43 1/2 in. (243.8 x 110.5 cm). Courtesy of Galerie Daniel Templon, Paris.
The Two Sisters, 2012. Oil on linen, 96 x 72 in. (243.8 x 182.9 cm). Collection of Pamela K. and William A. Royall, Jr., courtesy of Sean Kelly, New York.
Willem van Heythuysen, 2005. Oil and enamel on canvas, 96 x 72 in. (243.8 x 182.9 cm). Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond; Arthur and Margaret Glasgow Fund, 2006.14.
Houdon Paul-Louis, 2011. Bronze with polished stone base, 34 x 26 x 19 in. (86.4 x 66 x 48.3 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Frank L. Babbott Fund and A. Augustus Healy Fund, 2012.51.
The Sisters Zenaide and Charlotte Bonaparte, 2014. Oil on linen, 83 1/2 x 63 in. (212 x 160 cm).
Arms of Nicolas Ruterius, Bishop of Arras, 2014. Stained glass, 54 x 36 1/2 in. (137.2 x 92.7 cm). Courtesy of Galerie Daniel Templon, Paris.
Conspicuous Fraud Series #1 (Eminence), 2001. Oil on canvas, 79 1/2 x 79 1/2 x 3 1/2 in. (201.3 x 201.3 x 8.3 cm). The Studio Museum in Harlem; Museum purchase made possible by a gift from Anne Ehrenkranz, 02.10.14.