Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Kehinde Wiley, Portrait Painting Genius

While the guard wasn't looking I did craftily take this photo of the painting that blew my mind the minute I saw it.
The name of the artist is Kehinde Wiley. I won't forget it again.


The artist's name was driving me nuts. Ever since I posted that painting that I love at the DIA and couldn't recall the name of the artist--only that it had a K in it--I've been searching him out. I found him this afternoon. The painter's name is Kehinde Wiley. He's thirty six years old and paints one hell of a portrait. You can read his biography here, from the Sean Kelly Gallery website.

What attracted me to his work was his genius of putting a black man in ordinary street clothes in a settting previously reserved to famous, white historical figures.  --His painting is genius too. I pulled a few more pieces of his work from Kehinde Wiley images so you can see how he handles the backgrounds in portraits: FLAT HISTORICAL AND ETHNIC PATTERNS that sometimes envelope the subject and sometimes not. In most cases, the backgrounds are wallpaper--graphics--with the figures painted very life-like. He did a really great portrait of  L.L. Cool J, noted rapper and actor. (TV fans, me, watch him in NCIS Los Angeles).

So the next time, you're wondering how to handle a background on a portrait you're doing, Remember Kehinde Wiley's extrordinary solution. It's not for everyone, but it is full of life, vigor and excitement.

These are individual works. All are very large--life size. They were just grouped together.
I think the backgrounds show the artist's background-- A Black American man with Nigerian roots who studied
in Russia. 

13 comments:

  1. Hi Linda,
    The Portland Art Museum had an exhibit of his work a few years ago--the first time I'd heard of him. Like you, I was strongly impressed by his work and personality. He gave a superb talk about his work and philosophy when he came to town and was well-received by everyone who saw the exhibit and/or heard him speak.
    Great post.
    Sincerely,
    Gary.

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    1. I wish I had been there! What a talent he is. In these times of a lot of a lot of installation art I do find powerful, yet over-the-top abstract, intangible and fleeting, reality seen through his eyes with paint on canvas is refreshing and reassuring. He follows no other drummer than himself. I applaud his independence--and his technical skills aren't too shabby either. No dabbler here.

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  2. Great paintings! absolutely love them....!

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    1. I'm glad I shared Celeste. --You know, I don't know whether I told this story before or not, but I joined a watercolour art group not long ago just to be with others who painted. While they did their watercolours and I drew with colored pencils (going through a phase), we chatted. Of the fifteen artists there, I was the only one who had ever been to the DIA. I was blown away. I couldn't believe that any artist interested in making art wouldn't want to take a look at the art that had been made and was of museum quality. What watercolourist wouldn't want to take an up close look at Turner? I left the group soon after.

      The museum is a stimulating place to artists filled with all the genres and all the mediums we could imagine. As a student at the art college across the street, lunch hours were spent reenergizing ourselves for the afternoon sessions roaming through the galleries. I found stimulation looking at great art. All of us dreamed of our work hanging among the greats. We knew with just a little more work, we could actually paint that. The place gave us a hefty shove back to class to keep on striving. I don't want to know an 'artist' who would turn their back on such encouragement and never make the effort.

      Kehinde is one of those dedicated students who made it--by hard work and introspection of who he was and what he wanted to say about that to the world. Hats off to the young man. He took the intelligent road.

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  3. I have never heard of him before, but I know him now. Thank you. The work is brilliant. You would probably love John Kendall. He is a maritime artist who places contemporary people into historical settings. He paints in sepia, so the color doesn't grab you, but the concept is wonderful. I will remember Mr. Wiley and introduce him to my Integrated Art classes.

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    1. I'm glad I was able introduce you to Mr. Wiley. His work is brilliant. He has done marvelous portraits of Ice-T and LL Cool J that should be seen by your students. Bing (or Google) the portraits at Kehinde Wiley images. And take a closer look at the portrait I showed you of the woman. She's got a white woman's head in her hand. What do you think that's all about? For sure, there's an interesting story connected to that portrait.

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  4. Thank you for introducing me to this phenomenal artist! I can see why you were so taken by his work- I'm sure it's even more stunning in person.

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  5. ACK! You HAVE been posting!! I haven't been getting any of your posts with my blog list. You and Carrie Waller have disappeared form my blog list - GRRRRR! And I thought you were just focusing on your marketing ...

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    1. It's not me it's Blogger--or Memorex :-)). Maria Teater has disappeared from mine. I have to go looking for her. She had trouble with her domain, just like I did two years ago.

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    2. PS. I gave up thinking too much about marketing. I don't want another job. When Ellis is ready to take over the business end, perhaps then?

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  6. Dear Linda thank you for this amazing presentation!
    Portraits you never forget!So impressive   admire  together all these painting!
    Have nice Sunday,Rita.

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    1. You too Rita. Ihope your Sunday was as lovely as ours. We celebrated Fathers' Day picniking on the deck with the one son who lives near enough to come over. It was delightful with just the three of us.

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