Kehinde Wiley’s in town

Art star Kehinde Wiley has two shows on view right now, at the Jewish Museum of New York and Sean Kelly in Chelsea. In the NYTimes, Martha Schwendener gives a little
background:

 “After earning a master of fine arts at Yale in 2001,
Kehinde Wiley began exhibiting his large, figurative oil-on-canvas
portraits of young black men in hip-hop apparel. With their emphasis on
bright, acid colors and ghetto-fabulous outfits, the paintings
borrowed heavily from the work of Barkley Hendricks,
although Mr. Wiley’s contribution was to push things in a more
bombastic direction, hijacking the format of old master portraits. Mr.
Wiley’s work hasn’t changed much over the last decade, although his
scope has gone global. This exhibition, which focuses on Ethiopian
Israeli Jews, is shown alongside historic paper cuts and textile works
he selected from the museum’s collection. The result is a fusion of
Pattern and Decoration painting with figuration, a mash-up or sampling
of historical styles and references. “


Watch this video to hear Wiley explaining the importance of “The World Stage: Israel.”

At Sean Kelly, in his first solo show with the gallery, Wiley presents paintings that feature his first portraits of women. Here’s an excerpt from the press release: 

“Instead of representing the models in their own clothes, as is the case
with his portraits of men, Wiley has collaborated with Riccardo Tisci,
Creative Director of the famed French couture house Givenchy, to design
long dresses for the women. As creative collaborators, Wiley and Tisci
spent numerous hours together walking through the galleries of the
Louvre and discussing both the aesthetic and conceptual context for the
project, specifically society’s ideals of feminine beauty and the
frequent marginalization of women of color. Following these
conversations, Tisci designed six unique dresses for the models. The
resulting paintings to be shown in “An Economy of Grace” are a
celebration of black women, creating a rightful place for them within
art history, which has to date been an almost exclusively white domain.”

My take on Wiley’s work? Made with the help of numerous assistants, his projects seem academically couched and corporate. In a period now known as the Great Recession, when artists are returning to the heartfelt and handmade,Wiley’s formulaic, glitz-rich approach feels out of touch. But as long as his gallery has a waiting list, he might as well keep pumping out the product…right?

Kehinde Wiley,  Judith and Holofernes, 2012, oil on linen, 120 x 90 inches. Courtesy Sean Kelly.

Kehinde Wiley: An Economy of Grace,” Sean Kelly, New York, NY. Through June 16, 2012.

Kehinde Wiley / The World Stage: Israel,” The Jewish Museum, New York, NY. Through July 29, 2012.
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