Featuring 14 paintings and a three-channel film, HAVANA is informed by Wiley’s focus on the evolution of Black culture globally. Inspired by two visits Wiley made to Cuba, this new body of work explores the phenomenon of the carnivalesque in Western culture. Referencing artists as diverse as Toulouse-Lautrec, Picasso, Calder, and Western European depictions of the carnivalesque, the circus, and the power of street performance and dance, HAVANA focuses on the circus as a site of disruption for the rational mind and circus performers who embrace a dynamic and vibrant way of living and being in the world.
The works in the exhibition create a timeline in which political realities, economic hardship, artistic freedom, and the thirst for self-discovery become the catalyst for exploring a nation and culture through painting. In his study of art history and artists who were influenced by the circus, Wiley focused on the carnival as a metaphor for an attenuated and heightened state of being. Circuses are often places in which those who are cultural, religious, or social outcasts find their center. Similarly, artists themselves often occupy a space of being both within culture and on its periphery.