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 his 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.
INSIDE BLACK ROCK SENEGAL
Black Rock Senegal came out of a direct need to engage Africa in a much more personal way. I discovered Dakar on a layover in 1997, back when Air Afrique was the sole provider of flights from the west to Nigeria. It was my first visit to Africa and I was immediately enraptured by Senegalese language, food, art, culture, and tradition. After years of exploring the continent’s many cultures and countries I had a personal desire to create a workspace in West Africa. As an Artist who works in the west I desired a space of renewal to explore new ideas and to create work outside of a western context—to create work within the context of my own lineage. Black Rock stands as the direct answer to my desire to have an uncontested relationship with Africa, the filling in of a large void that I share with many African Americans. With this project I wanted to explore my own personal relationship with Africa while inviting artists to do the same and to galvanize the growing artistic and creative energies that exist in Africa in an increasing measure with the addition of diverse, international, creative possibility. – Kehinde Wiley, 2019
KEHINDE WILEY SHOP
Launched in 2020 the Kehinde Wiley Shop began as a partnership between Kehinde Wiley and Black Rock Senegal to create limited-edition apparel and merchandise featuring a selection of the artist’s personal favorite compositions from his archive that would support Black Rock Senegal, the non-profit artist-in-residence program founded by Wiley in Dakar, Senegal in 2019. Conceived, curated, and created for those who desire art and color in their lives, this collection offers a new opportunity to engage with Wiley’s bold and beautiful paintings while supporting Black Rock’s mission: to bring together artists, thinkers and innovators from around the world; to offer a platform for these artists to engage in cross-cultural and multi-disciplinary creative processes; and to build new global discourses about Africa and the African-Diaspora.