Arts & Entertainment

Painter Kehinde Wiley's radical twist on classical portraits (photos)

Artist Kehinde Wiley paints a portrait in his New York studio.
Artist Kehinde Wiley paints a portrait in his New York studio.
Courtesy Kehinde Wiley
Artist Kehinde Wiley paints a portrait in his New York studio.
Painter Kehinde Wiley's Judith and Holofernes, 2012, oil on linen.
Courtesy Sean Kelly, New York, Photo by Jason Wyche
Artist Kehinde Wiley paints a portrait in his New York studio.
Painter Kehinde Wiley's Femme Piquee par un Serpent, 2008, oil on canvas.
Courtesy Sean Kelly, New York
Artist Kehinde Wiley paints a portrait in his New York studio.
Artist Kehinde Wiley.
Artist Kehinde Wiley paints a portrait in his New York studio.
Artist Kehinde Wiley's models.
David Smoler
Artist Kehinde Wiley paints a portrait in his New York studio.
Artist Kehinde Wiley moves models Dacia Carter and Chanel Stephens for his "An Economy of Grace" project.
Photo by Jessica Chermayeff
Artist Kehinde Wiley paints a portrait in his New York studio.
Artist Kehinde Wiley's models.
Jessica Chermayeff


Former Angeleno Kehinde Wiley is known for his radical reinterpretations of classical portraits that aim to challenge hyper-sexualized conceptions of black identity. His latest project, which features black urban women wearing commissioned Givenchy gowns, is the focus of a new documentary. 

Watch the "Kehinde Wiley: An Economy of Grace" trailer here

Wiley grew up in South Central Los Angeles in the '80s amid "bloods and crips and gang warfare," Kehinde told Q with Jian Ghomeshi.  

That's where he became familiar "with an uncanny sensation of recognizing a type of black masculinity in the black culture and media that didn't quite fit with who I am in the world."

In the past, the New York-based artist has depicted contemporary black men against floral backdrops. But in his new project, he shifts the focus to black urban women.

Wiley says the twist on Western-European easel painting is about coming to terms with the disconnect he sees between "hyper-sexualized" and "fetishized" black female bodies and the real women in his life — "my sisters, my mother, the black women that I see every day walking through the streets of New York City."

The New York-based artist joined public radio show "Q with Jian Ghomeshi" to discuss his work and what it's like casting strangers from the streets of New York City. 

You can listen to the full interview here:

 

The article and audio was originally published on the Q blog here. 

What do you think of Wiley's work? Share your thoughts in comments.