Kehinde Wiley is arguably the most important contemporary artist of this generation. His art is time capsules of young black men throughout the world as heroic and powerful figures in classical European poses. The juxtaposition of old-new or urban-regal provokes debate of the perception of black skin.
“I loved when I walked into LACMA as a kid and seeing Kerry James Marshall’s grand barbershop painting. But it was thrown into very sharp relief when thinking about the absence of other black images in that museum. There was something absolutely heroic and fascinating about being able to feel a certain relationship to the institution and the fact that these people happen to look like me on some level,” says Wiley.
Wiley grew up in South Central Los Angeles in the late 80’s. Art was an escape from the ubiquitous violent climate.
The Yale graduate, is one the most sought after artists. He has numerous public collections in major cities. In 2005, VH1 commissioned Wiley to paint portraits of the legendary emcees for Hip Hop Honors. In the new Fox series, Empire, his artwork hangs on the walls of the character Lucious Lions' office and home.
“Many of the reasons why I choose certain sites have to do with a level of curiosity, but it also has to do with their broader, global, political importance- strategically for America, and the world community at large,” says Wiley.