SPOTLIGHT: Kehinde Wiley

 

American Artist_Kehinde Wiley

 

American Artist, Kehinde Wiley‘s work is a colorful blend of traditional and contemporary roots seen in his trademark over sized portraits where young men and women of color, posed in their street clothes are fixed into grandiose backgrounds that suit them as if they were royalty. Initially his portraits were based on the photographs of young men in Harlem, now he has firmly situated himself as the painter known to travel to urban places in Israel, Africa, Brazil and India to find his next subject.

These portrayals inspire people to throw out phrases like ‘crossing boundaries’, and ‘breaking down barriers’ when they refer to his art. In the last six years or so, Wiley has become a highly sought after painter – with a style I like to refer to as ‘art house rebel rousing’.  At the forefront of this modern takeover is his artistic desire to make art that continues to carry on a discourse for people of color, “I think it’s important for African-American kids to see pictures of people who look like them on museum walls”, says Kehinde.

 

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“I think one of the things that must happen in the work is for it to become class-conscious. You’ll never be able to exist within this marketplace without recognizing that paintings are perhaps the most expensive objects in the art world. It’s not going to change anyone’s life. But what it does function as is a catalyst for a different way of thinking. The very act of walking into the Los Angeles County Museum and seeing Kerry James Marshall as a kid gave me a sense of, Damn, maybe I can do this. And, so, symbols matter. One of my interests is in having the work in as many public collections as possible. When I go to the Brooklyn Museum or the Metropolitan Museum and see my stuff, I’m aware that there are other young kids who don’t have access to anything like it.”

—quote pulled from Meghan O’Rourke’s interview with Kehinde Wiley in WSJ

Enjoy these great links to more information on Wiley:

  • Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic at The Toledo Museum of Art (On view Feb. 10-May 14, 2017) offers an overview of the artist’s prolific 14-year career. His signature portraits of everyday men and women riff on paintings by Old Masters, replacing European aristocrats in those paintings with contemporary black subjects and drawing attention to the absence of African-Americans from historical and cultural narratives
  • Not convinced that you need to see the exhibit?  Wow yourself with the necessity to see Kehinde Wiley’s work in person with this intimate portrait of Kehinde Wiley: An Economy of Grace, now on demand at PBS Art.
  • There are several great art books that verse you in all things Wiley, but the book simply titled, Kehinde Wiley is by far my favorite.  The book gets bonus points for having curator, Thelma Golden onboard as one its contributors.
  • For a closer look at Kehinde Wiley works now in circulation and editorial imprints, try Artsy’s resource.

 

kehinde wiley

SPOTLIGHT: KARA WALKER

 

 Kara-Walker-Domino-Factory-Lead

Kara Walker is an American Artist known for her bold exploration into race, culture and gender and identity issues. You might not have remembered her name, but surely I can recall you to her work once I show you those explosive black silhouettes resembling paper cut-outs that she’s most known for.

Born in 1969, Walker attended the Rhode Island School of Design and has gone on to showcase her work in some of the finest museums around: MOMA, SFMOMA, Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, just to name a few. She is the youngest MacArthur recipient as well as the youngest artist to receive a retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

In 2007, Walker was listed among Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People. In the article, fellow artist Barbara Kruger summed up Walker’s work amazingly with this quote. “Walker’s vigilance has produced a compelling reckoning with the twisted trajectories of race in America. Her installations and films forcefully pluralize our notion of a singular “history.” They create a profusion of back stories and revisions that slash and burn through the pieties of patriotism and the glosses of “color blindness.” Restarting the engines of seemingly archaic methods, from the graphic effect of silhouette portraits to the machine-age ethos of film, she produces a cast of characters and caricatures with appetites for destruction and reproduction, for power and sex.”

This past year, Walker took over the historic Domino Sugar Factory in Brooklyn for a collaboration with Creative Time NYC.  The exhibit, ‘Subtlety or the Marvelous Sugar Baby’ was “an homage to the unpaid and overworked Artisans who have refined our sweet tastes from the cane fields to the Kitchens of the New World on the Occasion of the demolition of the Domino Sugar Refining Plant.”

The exhibit was mind-blowing – scattered throughout the space were Banana Boys, life-size statues of little boys cast in sugar resin holding baskets, dripping dark molasses inside the warm building, adding to the permeating smell of burnt sugar. But nothing could distract from the overwhelmingly beautiful conceptual execution of the sugar-coated sphinx resting at 75-feet-long and 35-feet-tall.

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Delve deeper into Kara Walker’s work with these resources:

 

*featured pic courtesy of Creative Time, all other pics taken by HAHA MAG

SPOTLIGHT: Gordon Parks

American Photographer Gordon Parks has been called “the most important black photographer in the history of photojournalism” – the man who taught himself how to take pictures at the age of twenty-five with a Voigtländer Brillant that he purchased at a pawn shop.

In 1948, after a stint with the Farm Security Administration (F.S.A.) covering the nation’s social conditions, he garnered attention with his photo essay on the life of a Harlem gang leader that won him widespread acclaim and a place as the first African-American staff photographer and writer for Life Magazine – where he stayed for two decades. Parks work captures some of the most iconic moments in American Culture from the early 1940’s up until his death in 2006.  As a humanitarian, he seemed most passionate about capturing the nation in its moments of social upheaval with an air of timelessness. His lens so often found the dignity and pride of the people whose portraits accompanied these stories.

 

Parks was multi-faceted man – he was also a humanitarian, a musician, a film director, and a writer. “He spent much of the last three decades of his life expanding his style, conducting experiments with color photography. He continued working up until his death in 2006, winning many awards, including the National Medal of Arts in 1988, and over fifty honorary doctorates. He was also a noted composer and author, and in 1969, became the first African-American to write and direct a Hollywood feature film based on his bestselling novel The Learning Tree. This was followed in 1971 by the hugely successful motion picture Shaft. The core of his accomplishment, however, remains his photography the scope, quality, and enduring national significance of which is reflected throughout the Collection. According to Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Research Center at Harvard University, “Gordon Parks is the most important black photographer in the history of photojournalism. Long after the events that he photographed have been forgotten, his images will stay with us, testaments to the genius of his art, transcending time, place and subject.”**

You can become better acquainted with his legacy of work at The Gordon Parks Foundation.

*Come follow us on Twitter today (@hahamag #spotlightseries) as we tweet links to Gordon Park’s work online.

 

 

Gordon Parks, “Untitled,” Alabama (1956), Archival Pigment Print, 12 × 18 inches (© Gordon Parks Foundation, courtesy of the Foundation and Salon 94)

*images courtesy of Time Magazine. **quote from Biography of Parks at Gates Foundation website.