We went to see the Kehinde Wiley: Columbus exhibit at the Columbus Museum of Art this weekend, and we were treated to a surprise. I had forgotten that the Richard Avedon photographic exhibit was still there. Come to think of it, it was the last day of that installation. But, back to Kehinde Wiley. (I will dedicate tomorrow's post to Richard Avedon) As we approached the exhibit, we saw a video monitor which showed the work Wiley and his assistants did to prepare the models, and it also showed preliminary sketches done with graphite. When we entered the ornately decorated room where the paintings were, we were hit by multiple blasts of varying shades of pink, green, blue, orange, and red jumping off each of the 8 foot canvases. Images of black males (all inhabitants of Columbus, Ohio) in curious poses evoked thoughts of B-Boy stances, and Hip-Hop bravado, while each individual was clothed in bright and colorful garb, showing off name brands, and expensive jewelry, expressing their importance, and affluence. (Bling, if you will) Each painting's subject was surrounded by expressive flowers and designs which were reminiscent of paintings which are centuries old, adding to the over the top feeling/attitude of the Bling subculture. What was interesting was, all these paintings were reinterpretations of Renaissance and Baroque paintings. The originals were paintings of significant, affluent, and historical people (the titles of each reinterpretation are the names of the individuals in the original portraits) holding the poses Wiley chose to place HIS subjects in. Nearly all the individuals within the old school paintings were dressed in finery and had jewelry, and expensive accessories which expressed THEIR social standing and affluence. It was cool to see elements of Hip-Hop and Renaissance culture blur and overlap, making for a very interesting dichotomy.
Check out Kehinde Wiley's work at the Columbus Museum of Art, or just do a web search at KehindeWiley.com, and Kehinde Wiley Columbus.
It is well worth the time, and you just may learn something about Hip-Hop, and the Baroque era of painting.