If you find yourself in Seattle between now and May 8th, make sure to stop at the SAM (Seattle Art Museum) to check out the Kehinde Wiley exhibition. The exhibit, titled “A New Republic,” is a great collection of this young artist’s very distinct style and point of view.
Kehinde Wiley is a 37-year-old, African American, gay artist from NYC. His sexual orientation and race are a big part of his artwork. His artwork is complex and there are many ways to experience his art. From joy and pleasure of the colorful paintings to a certain discomfort that shines. The main theme in his work originates from the lack of representation of black men in the art world and in the mainstream media. Wiley is intrigued with what happens when a group of people lacks quality representation of themselves in imagery and the destruction this can create. By putting people of color front and center, Wiley tries to present positive images in a more mainstream manner.
From a very young age, Wiley was interested in European portraiture art. His signature style takes traditional European portraits and mixes black protagonists as the heroes of his canvases. The backgrounds use a lot of flat, decorative, and colorful patterns in order to eliminate any sense of domination. The protagonists’ poses show authority, masculinity, as well as vulnerability and the beauty of a man.
Wiley has a very specific process for creating the different scenes he paints: he goes to the streets, finds subjects, sees if there’s any chemistry or vibe with the person, and asks them to pose. They decide on specific poses together based on art history books. On the day of the photoshoot, the model is dressed as they want, the picture is taken in that pose, and the painting is made from the photo. The background is painted by other people. Wiley focuses on painting the figure.
The exhibit also includes his series of people of color from around the world and his series of women figures.
In the last couple of years Wiley has dabbled in new mediums such as sculpture and stained glass.
The SAM offers guided tours of the exhibit every day at 1:15pm and 2:15pm.
A New Republic is a place that embraces differences in gender, sexual orientation, and race, which make us aware of our own stereotypes. Everybody should go check it out.