Kehinde Wiley creates big, bold paintings of young black men that are a throwback to 18th century classical portraiture. His sitters strike regal poses against vibrant, ornate patterns, wearing colorful T-shirts, caps and baggy jeans. It's like Baroque gone day-glo. Opening today at the Deitch Projects gallery in New York is a new exhibit of Wiley's portraits called 'Black Light.'
The exhibit presents an interesting twist on Wiley's work -- the figures are photographs; only the backgrounds are painted. Wiley's other portraits are originally based on photos, so it's interesting to see one layer peeled away from his process. The end result is equally striking.
Last summer, Kurt visited Wiley in his Brooklyn studio. He was working on a series of paintings of African men from Dakar and Lagos.
Kurt and Kehinde in the artist's studio, July 2008
Kehinde told Kurt how, as a kid, he was inspired by the British portraiture at the Huntington Library in California, and at the same moment realized, 'there weren't people who happened to look like me. By and large I was the black kid there.' You can listen to the interview here:
'Black Light' is up at Deitch until September 26.