During Wiley’s residency in Rio de Janeiro, Afro-Brazilian men became the impetus for the majestic paintings, inspired by the iconic nationalistic sculptures that line the city streets and anchor its parks. Statesmen, noblemen, and the elite of Brazil are erased from their perches; the young black and brown men from present-day favelas are aggrandized. In tandem with the homoerotic undertone, Wiley further challenges the realm of the conventional male gaze. The viewer is forced to confront notions of the inherent colonial influence, exoticism and festishization.
Though weaving in the history of Western portraiture, the Brazilian essence radiates from Wiley’s new body of work. Oversized, tropical flowers bursting in bloom, appropriated from brightly hued indigenous textiles, encompass the spirit and culture of Brazil. Set against a storied backdrop of Brazilian iconography, the male subjects pose in their own clothing, reflecting a reverence for American conspicuous consumption.