If you were reading this space exactly one month ago, you remember my interest in the phenomenal new short film series produced by Infiniti. Leading directors, musicians and artists are behind the project. The first batch of films address black as color and in various conceptual terms. One of the more recent short featurettes is by celebrated contemporary artist Kehinde Wiley, one of the fastest rising young stars of the art world.
Only a few years shy of his 30th birthday and Wiley's already enjoyed a scuccessful show at the Brooklyn Museum and been on the cover of Art in America. In A Portrat in Black, we see Wiley create an oil and acrylic on canvas. It's the standard super-black Infiniti background, embellished with the rich colors of the pallette, dissolves that super-impose the artist and, finally, the completed work. The background music is at times jazzy, sometimes more Guru-style hip hop, other times static.
Read more about it and see the final product.
Kehinde describes his work as a collage of methods and style:
What you'll find often in my work is decorative patterns from pre-colonial West Africa. You'll see Islamic architectural facade ornamation. You'll see Baroque ceiling fresco florations. All of these things merge to create a unified mold ... a unified third object.
Wiley says that unified third object—the final product—seeks to bridge the new and the old. By fusing hip hop and modernism with the Old Masters like Titian or Raphael, Wiley is attempting to correct "one of the greatest ills within the artworld, the absence of black presence and certainly black male presence."
Not everyone grasps the intent, especially those used to more linear presentations. Two weeks ago, DCist reviewed Kehinde's current show "White Paintings", on exhibit at the Conner Contemporary Art. Like me, reviewer J.T. Kirkland was impressed with Wiley's vision—his paintings are always musem-sized or "monumental." Kirkland enjoyed the hip hop imagery, but found it gimmicky and the paintings "a bit amateurish" and "technically sub-par." "We wanted the digital look; something that took contemporary cultured combined with technology and juxtaposed that with classic poses and decoration."
But that would be another artist, no?