“Los Angeles native and New York based visual artist, Kehinde Wiley has firmly situated himself within art history’s portrait painting tradition. As a contemporary descendent of a long line of portraitists, including Reynolds, Gainsborough, Titian, Ingres, among others, Wiley, engages the signs and visual rhetoric of the heroic, powerful, majestic and the sublime in his representation of urban, black and brown men [and women] found throughout the world.”

Kehinde has a unique way of exploring the conventions of glorification, history, wealth and prestige by placing young black and brown men and women in poses historically reserved for the social elite, royalty, and Western ideals of beauty. Not one to shy away from the complicated soci-political histories conveyed in traditional Western paintings, Kehinde’s larger than life portrait paintings awaken complex issues that are striking and intriguing. What I find most compelling is how a simple pose can speak volumes and change the conversation around the subject matter.


Kehinde Wiley in his Bejing Studio (Photo: Matthew Niederhauser/Institute)

Here are some additional portraits that I found compelling:

Scenic: “Le Roi A La Chasse”

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An Economy of Grace: “The Two Sisters”

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Rumors of War: “Le Roi A La Chasse II”

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