The works of Kehinde Wiley raise questions about race, gender, and the politics of representation by portraying contemporary African American men and women using the conventions of traditional European portraiture. The artist’s prolific fourteen-year career includes several museum exhibitions and a retrospective. He is also famous for the Presidential portrait of Barak Obama.
Wiley’s signature portraits of everyday men and women riff on specific paintings by Old Masters, replacing the European aristocrats depicted in those paintings with contemporary black subjects, drawing attention to the absence of African Americans from historical and cultural narratives.
The subjects in Wiley’s paintings often wear sneakers, hoodies, and baseball caps, gear associated with hip-hop culture, and are set against contrasting ornate decorative backgrounds that evoke earlier eras and a range of cultures.
Through the process of “street casting,” Wiley invites individuals, often strangers he encounters on the street, to sit for portraits. In this collaborative process, the model chooses a reproduction of a painting from a book and reenacts the pose of the painting’s figure. By inviting the subjects to select a work of art, Wiley gives them a measure of control over the way they’re portrayed.
Kehinde Wiley Passing/Posing (Marriage of the Virgin)oil on canvas, in artist’s frame 83 7/8 x 108 1/8 inches signed, titled and dated ‘passing/posing Marriage of the Virgin Kehinde Wiley 05’ on the reverse
PROVENANCE: Roberts & Tilton, Los Angeles. Acquired from the above by the present owner EXHIBITIONS:Denver Art Museum, Focus: The Figure, June 2009 – August 2011