Kehinde Wiley has been collecting laurels for over a decade, for his amazingly vivid, large scale, ultra-realistic portraits of contemporary African-Americans in an epic style that nods to Barkley L. Hendricks, but with much heavier doses of old-master grandeur, appropriating for everyday people the majesty of Renaissance nobles. Though on paper it seems like a simple conceit, his gifts as a painter render it spectacular, and his body of work taken as a whole raises powerful points about race, social class, and the true meaning of “nobility.”
Given his obeisance to Renaissance tropes, stained glass windows would seem an obvious medium for Wiley to explore, and this has in fact happened. An exhibit currently showing at Le Petit Palais in Paris features six Wiley stained glass works and four paintings. It’s the artist’s first French solo exhibition, and is loaded with religious imagery, including a couple of pietàs that MUST be intended to recall America’s hideous and apparently unswerving habit of murdering young black boys. Interestingly, the paintings are being shown among Le Petit Palais’ 19th Century collection. The exhibit is titled “Lamentations,” and is scheduled to run through January 15, 2017.
If you’re new to Kehinde Wiley’s work, you could do worse than to check out the documentary An Economy of Grace. Here’s a trailer.
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Renaissance portrait or rapper?
Before Kehinde Wiley, there was Barkley L. Hendricks: magnificent portraits of African-Americans