Kehinde Wiley: Where Art History Meets Modern Culture

Kehinde Wiley is an incredible artist who graduated from Yale School of Art in 2001 and has successfully shown paintings all over the world. Born in America in 1977 he is not only one of our day and age’s most incredible artists, but he pays homage to pieces in art’s history all while adding a modern twist and message. There is no denying this man can paint. His photo-realistic oil paintings are both captivating in construction and thought provoking in composition. I was blessed with the chance to view one in person when I was visiting Seattle, Washington last summer. This particular piece (pictured below) titled “Anthony of Padua” was one of the main highlights of the SAM (Seattle Art Museum) at the time of my visit.

72 × 60 in. (182.9 × 152.4cm)

This flawlessly created oil on canvas painting is a fantastic example of this artist’s work. He is known for how he takes famous painting from Western Art’s history and modifies them with imagery of African American people in their modern street-wear. Though to some this may just seem like a pretty picture, there is so much more behind these pieces. The pieces he chooses as his base to replicate are ones that signify power, wealth, or status among the people of that time. By taking a powerful painting and inserting an everyday African American person, he is sending a message of significant worth. It is a political message of identity and to me helps signify how far we have overcome race issues as a society and yet how much further we have to go. When I view these pieces I feel the strength of the subject radiating from their gaze and it sends me a message of hope for people of all colors. One of my favorite parts about his series of paintings in this style, is that he is known for painting everyday people and he lets them pick their own background pattern. By doing this, he is giving the people who sit for him a gift, he is showing them that they are beautiful and valuable and he is painting them in a way to make them feel empowered. When they show their friends and family the finished product they too will feel inspired and view this person in a new light and the model will know they were a part of something great. I can only imagine the wonderful impact his pieces have had on the community of his models. With so many recent hate crimes in America, I feel it is so important to highlight an artist who is trying to help push his cultural background to a higher level. It is inspiring to all races, and helps keep the art world diverse and alive.

He has a book of his collections titled “Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic” which can be found at Barnes and Noble [ ] for only $31.71 and I would suggest that everyone pick up a copy. His revolutionary mind is helping reshape art and cultural value through his incredible paintings.

You can view several other paintings on his website:

Source Credit: SAM Museum website


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