Feb. 13 Art Minute: Kehinde Wiley, ‘Saint Francis of Paola’

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Kehinde Wiley (American, born 1977), Saint Francis of Paolo. Oil on canvas in artist’s frame, 2003. 82 x 70 in. Gift of Charles L. Borgmeyer, Mrs. Webster Plass, and C. W. Kraushaar, by exchange, 2005.290. Gallery 2A

Kehinde Wiley (American, born 1977), Saint Francis of Paola. Oil on canvas in artist’s frame, 2003. 82 x 70 in. Gift of Charles L. Borgmeyer, Mrs. Webster Plass, and C. W. Kraushaar, by exchange, 2005.290. Gallery 2A

How do you look at a young black man in American society? It is a very important question, especially at this moment in our culture. — Kehinde Wiley

Though now Kehinde Wiley sometimes paints well–known figures, he still practices the collaborative method he developed in his early career, which he calls “street casting.” As he did with this early painting, Wiley chooses as his portrait subjects ordinary young African American men (and increasingly, women) that he sees passing by on the street. If the chosen model agrees to a portrait, Wiley has him leaf through art history books and choose a pose from the images. Wiley then paints his usually street-clothes-clad model in a pose derived from Baroque portraits of monarchs or Renaissance paintings of saints. With this method, he presents a contemporary person of color within the grandiose traditions of Old Master paintings, where historically black men and women were absent or relegated to the margins.


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