Kehinde Wiley: St. Louis Art Museum

Kehinde Wiley: St. Louis Art Museum


Tired Mercury, 2018, Oil on Linen, Kehinde Wiley

Kehinde Wiley Exhibition: Saint Louis Art Museum until February 10, 2019

Kehinde Wiley creates large-scale oil paintings of contemporary African American subjects that are reminiscent of traditional European and American portrait painting. Wiley’s models are real people dressed in their own chosen clothes in poses adapted from historic paintings. Wiley chose eight works of art from the Saint Louis Art Museum’s collection and one on loan from a local private collector. Addressing the politics of race and power in art, Wiley draws attention to the lack of artistic representation of people of color. In 2017, Wiley went to St. Louis to cast people to pose for portraits visiting neighborhoods in North St. Louis and Ferguson. (“Street Casting” is something he started in NYC in 2001; a process in which he invites strangers he meets to pose for his paintings.)

Portrait of a Florentine Nobleman, 2018, Kehinde Wiley


About the Artist:

Kehinde Wiley, American-born in 1977, became the first African-American artist to paint an official U.S. Presidential portrait for the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. In particular, former U.S. President Barack Obama selected Wiley for this honor. Additionally, Wiley has held solo exhibitions at the Brooklyn Museum, the Jewish Museum in New York, the Columbus Museum of Art, and the Studio Museum in Harlem. His works are included in the collections of numerous public institutions. Check them out here.

Major Moses Seymour, 2018, Kehinde Wiley


About the Work:

Using flat-painted decorative backgrounds, Wiley suggests a modernized version of William Morris wallpaper or Jacobean print. The three-dimensional glowing skin of the subjects in contemporary 2018 dress, in particular, the vibrant colors of fuchsia, aqua, lime, red, and yellow, along with the immense size of the works, are enthralling. As a result, the paintings are fascinating down to each fingernail. The subjects’ serious expressions, sometimes reflect the haughtiness of the original subjects in the paintings that inspired the artist. His point is made. These paintings elevate the subjects, people of African American descent, African or African diaspora, to the level of the wealthy white original portrait subjects, and their status, glorification, and prestige.

Archbishop of York and Chancellor of the Order of the Garter, 2018, Oil on Linen, Kehinde Wiley

For more information on the show, please follow this link.