New York based, Kehinde Wiley is a wildly successful visual artist known for creating large, vibrant, highly vivid patterned paintings of African Americans sporting contemporary street fashion. In a world where public perception of young black men is mostly negative, Wiley offers powerful imagery of black and brown men in heroic, powerful and majestic visual rhetoric. He lifts his subject from the street and renders them complete with kicks, jeans, sweat pants, track suits as a modern interpretation of classic European portraiture. What is so amazing about his work for me, is the depth each portrait reveals about it’s subject.
Initial, his earlier portraits were based on photographs taken of young men in and around the streets of Harlem. As his artistic eye became stronger, he expanded his viewpoint by traveling to Senegal, Dakar, Rio de Janeiro and most recently, Jamaica accumulating to a vast body of work called, “The World Stage.”
The Stephen Friedman Gallery in London, had the pleasure of hosting Wiley’s first solo exhibition in the U.K where it will run until the mid November. This exhibit, The World Stage: Jamaica depicts a mixture of men and women in contemporary Jamaican street fashion.
Asked on why he mainly depicts African Americans in his portraits, Wiley had this to say:
There was something absolutely heroic and fascinating about being able to feel a certain relationship to the institution and the fact that these people happen to look like me on some level. One of the reasons I’ve chosen some of these zones had to do with the way you fantasize, whether it be about your own people or far-flung places, and how there’s the imagined personality and look and feel of a society, and then there’s the actuality that sometimes is jarring, as a working artist and traveling from time to time.