Oct 27, 2008


Second day before closing, I caught the awesome show at the Studio Museum of Harlem, "The World Stage: Africa, Lagos, Dakar", the amazing paintings of Kehinde Wiley. I have seen Wiley's work before---maybe at Deitch Projects, I'm not sure---but I didn't remember it having such a powerful effect. In Wiley's newest work, he sets up shop in various locales and soaks in the culture of that place, through hanging out with locals, visiting museums, and studying the relevant history. In Lagos, Dakar local African men were given the chance to pose in stances based on those of local monuments and statues; it was a give and take between artist and subject at these photo shoots. As a result, the gestures in the paintings are almost dance-like, such as in "Place Soweto: National Assembly".
One bit of information which was not provided was the significance of the brightly colored patterns both enveloping the figures and serving as backgrounds; I would assume they are taken from each specific locale of where the painting was made, but if anyone out there knows more specifically, please let me know!

Wiley's technique is nothing short of perfection; invisible brushstrokes, and a complex understanding of color which is nothing short of a modern Vermeer. In a documentary describing Wiley's practice (on display in the Museum), he explained his process as first: photo shoot, then digital work to enhance the colors already present. The nuances in the skin tones were obviously carefully labored over, and the sculptural shadowing combined with the large scale gave each painting a special, monumental quality. ('On Top of the World,' Kehinde Wiley, 2008)

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