In Time Out, Sophie Fels writes that painter Kehinde Wiley is like the hero of a children’s story. “Wiley grew up as one of six siblings raised with more love than money by a single mom who was an antiques dealer in South Central Los Angeles. His father, who works in architecture, was from Nigeria, and had left Wiley’s mom before he was born. At age 20, Wiley, then studying art in San Francisco, set out for that country’s largest city, Lagos, to find his dad—which he did, remarkably, by asking around. After about a month in Africa, Wiley returned to the U.S., where he started a series of portraits based on his father.
“Since then, likenesses have made Wiley his name. The artist, 31, starts with a striking formula, juxtaposing elements from 18th- and 19th-century portraiture—billowing clouds, shining swords—with the figures of young black men in jeans and athletic jerseys. Currently, his work is installed in the lobby of the Brooklyn Museum and can be seen in a group survey, ‘Recognize!,’ at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. And on Wednesday 16 at Studio Museum in Harlem, Wiley opens ‘The World Stage: Africa, Lagos ~ Dakar,’ a new series he produced in temporary studios in Lagos, and Dakar, Senegal. In these canvases, Wiley placed local subjects against African textiles. ‘It’s taking what he does and moving,’ explains the Studio Museum’s director, Thelma Golden (the subject of one of Wiley’s few renderings of women, where she’s limned Queen Elizabeth I), adding that this new work signals the artist is entering his ‘early midcareer.” Read more.
“Kehinde Wiley: The World Stage: Africa, Lagos ~ Dakar” Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY. Through Oct 26.