Kehinde Wiley



BOZAR - Centre for Fine Arts


Rue Ravensteinstraat 23
1000 Brussels


Email Address:

+32 (0)2 507 82 00

Working hours:
Tuesday — Sunday : 10 am — 6 pm, Thursday : 10 am — 9 pm, 24 & 31.12: 10 am — 16 pm, 25.12 & 01.01: closed

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Kehinde Wiley
07.02 – 29.04.2018

Kehinde Wiley is fascinated by the iconography of the sacred. BOZAR welcomes five stained glass pieces by the African-American artist, centered around representations of vulnerability in Christianity. By combining stained glass, through which light streams to reveal the divine, with a contemporary imagery rooted in American culture, Kehinde Wiley questions our models of society, identity and gender.

‘I think there is something important in going against the grain, and perhaps finding value in things that aren’t necessarily institutionally recognized.’

Los Angeles native and New York based visual artist, Kehinde Wiley has firmly situated himself within
art history’s portrait painting tradition. As a contemporary descendent of a long line of portraitists,
including Reynolds, Gainsborough, Titian, Ingres, among others, Wiley, engages the signs and visual
rhetoric of the heroic, powerful, majestic and the sublime in his representation of urban, black and
brown men found throughout the world. 

By applying the visual vocabulary and conventions of glorification, history, wealth and prestige to the
subject matter drawn from the urban fabric, the subjects and stylistic references for Wiley’s paintings
are juxtaposed inversions of each other, forcing ambiguity and provocative perplexity to pervade his
imagery. Wiley’s larger than life figures disturb and interrupt tropes of portrait painting, often blurring the
boundaries between traditional and contemporary modes of representation and the critical portrayal of
masculinity and physicality as it pertains to the view of black and brown young men.

Initially, Wiley’s portraits were based on photographs taken of young men found on the streets of
Harlem. As his practice grew, his eye led him toward an international view, including models found in
urban landscapes throughout the world – such as Mumbai, Senegal, Dakar and Rio de Janeiro, among
others – accumulating to a vast body of work called, “The World Stage.”

The models, dressed in their everyday clothing most of which are based on the notion of far-reaching
Western ideals of style, are asked to assume poses found in paintings or sculptures representative of
the history of their surroundings. This juxtaposition of the “old” inherited by the “new” – who often have
no visual inheritance of which to speak – immediately provides a discourse that is at once visceral and
cerebral in scope.

Without shying away from the complicated socio-political histories relevant to the world, Wiley’s
figurative paintings and sculptures “quote historical sources and position young black men within the
field of power.” His heroic paintings evoke a modern style instilling a unique and contemporary manner,
awakening complex issues that many would prefer remain mute.

Image on top: St. Mary, 2016 Vitrail, cadre en aluminium 248,7 x 105,6 cm ; 97 7/8 x 41 5/8 in.


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