Dec 6, 2008

Naaah Kehinde Wiley this doesn't sit well




I've been off my blogging game lately. My bad. But Yashua Klos told me to tell it like it is so... 

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to go up to harlem and check out Kehinde Wiley as he spoke about his latest exhibition " The World Stage:Africa".  I've had convos with friends about Kehinde's artwork. Originally my reaction to his work was total awe and in time it turned to " what on earth?".  

Kehinde has become famous for painting image after image of gigantic black men in traditional european poses. They are gorgeous and technically sick.  But there are so MANY of them after awhile I began to question his message? I guess it was supposed to be ironic, but It began to seem like he wanted to make black men dignified by making them act non-black. One friend defended him saying that Kehinde's idea was that because we (blacks) are not repped in history he was "painting us in". I said " really, well that's cool". So when the opportunity presented itself I had to ask Kehinde what the real deal was ( turns out btw I wasnt the only audience member disturbed). 

He fumbled a little as he said he was fascinated by european art and he found it the utmost in dignity and wanted to depict the men this way (paraphrasing). It kind of makes me sad. With the many many gigantic and time consuming paintings he did this is the best way he found to make that point. And then he turned it into a gimmick. I've seen at least 17 of them 6 ft tall a piece. Well, we all have to eat and Kehinde is eating well.

Kehinde, babes. This is OUR world every last one of us. White-Black-Yellow-Beige.  There is no longer one standard. Pretty paintings tho, but I'm glad you've moved on. :)


10 comments:

lion said...

I'm going by the pictures in the blog so apologies if I'm missing something. The pictures didn't do much to me on screen. So Im sure that in person a 6ft canvas would be very impressive.

However are these meant to be a critique or pastiche of European art? I'm not sure. The pictures look a a little bland to me. Where's the edge? If the point is redress an imbalance of representation we see African-Americans flossing 24hrs a day on music television. Ok a platinum toothed rapper may not be everyone's idea of regal representation but it is representation.

If it's a critique of European art then another angle might be to invert the Renaissance paintings which feature blacks as servants or property of rich Europeans. Imagine one of the paintings with a little white boy or even a little white girl in the corner. This I think would raise a number of questions.

So I'm a little disappointed to be honest. They look like something tacky from MTV Cribs.

Brother OMi said...

I dig Kehinde. I don't think he is trying to run a gimmick. I know where he has all those historical references from. It's dope that he uses those historical pictures.

While I agree that when it comes to paintings, our approached should be less eurocentric but the art schools don't teach that. they usually start at the renaissance and thats it.

So of course we have to share some of the blame. We need to introduce the babies to art from around the world.

overall, i still dig his stuff and wish i had the loot to buy some

Khia_Rocks said...

@ lion...first of all commend you on the longest post you've ever given me. Lol. Second i think the answer Kehinde gave me proved that "no" it wasn't about a redress of imbalance. that is was made me sad.

@ Brother Omi ( tell yetunde peace btw) When i first saw the paintings I thought they were about Defiance, as I saw more and more...and more of them they looked less like Defiance and more of Admiration for European culture. Even that may not have been so bad if he hadn't done so damn MANY of them. He did it for VH1 he did versions with rappers in it. It didn't start as a gimmick but it ended as one. No artist can do that much similar work without coming with a new concept. We get bored. He admitted it himself. He was getting paid and he's not proud of it. I don't hate Kehinde ( I'm proud of him as I am of all accomplished artists) but I'm not feeling his old angle...Like i said glad he moved on.

Khia_Rocks said...

Btw...please know I'm not hating on the gimmick part of it...I ain't mad he got his fame on or that he's eating well.

lion said...

Heh Khia I finally reclaimed my love for the Internet again via the iPhone - highly recommended!

I wish the bro all the best in the world. Believe that. I was actually expecting something like Chris Ofilli who goes a lot further with challenging art work. Seeing a young black guy on horseback in a mock Renaissance painting is good at first glance but a bit one dimenaional after a minute. Then after I'd seen one painting they all pretty much looked the same.

Let's hope the bro makes more paper than Basquiat!

ek said...

Funny, I don't see many brothas riding horses through the streets. Let me take that back...the 5 or 6 times I've seen horses on DC streets it's a black cop, park trooper or "cowboy" (what's THAT about, cowboys in the city?)

As far as making statements, I find this hard to interpret as anything other than a nice technical achievement by the artist. Then again, I'm not an artist so to me it's just a pretty picture. The scale might do something to heighten the experience.

Brother OMi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brother OMi said...

everyone loved andy warhol when he was redoing old pop culture motif's

he is hailed as a genius for urinating on pieces...

no one said you were hating...
I don't use that word when someone is actually critiquing someone else's work

i will tell my wife you said PEACE

Khia_Rocks said...

as of right now, i'm officially Hating on warhols pee-work...i'm just saying.Why?

MIKE SYNONYM said...

I SEE BOTH SIDES OF THE EQUATION. BUT I THIINK 'GIMMICK' IS A LIL HARSH. WHATS A SOFTER WAY OF SAYING "SELLOUT"?

NAH JUST KIDDIN'