Images Mary Little, Later Lady Carr; Dacia Carter; Kancou Diaovno. All copyright Kehinde Wiley (2012). Courtesy of Sean Kelly Gallery, New York
Words Carinya Sharples
African-American muses recreate and redefine historical poses of women in a colourful new portrait series by Kehinde Wiley, on show now at New York’s Sean Kelly Gallery.
African-American/Nigerian artist Wiley is better known for his Renaissance-style portraits of modern-day black men in heroic poses. Now, for the first time, the heroines take centre stage – and in dresses specially created by Riccardo Tisco, creative director of Givenchy.
The women pictured in the works were cast on the streets of New York, their poses based on traditional portraits of society women by artists such as Jacques-Louis David, Thomas Gainsborough and John Singer Sargent.
Wiley explains: “This series of works attempts to reconcile the presence of black female stereotypes that surrounds their presence and/or absence in art history, and the notions of beauty, spectacle, and the ‘grand’ in painting.”
Santigold also gets the Wiley treatment on the cover of her latest album, Master Of My Make Believe, which sees the singer photographed in front of a painting picturing her as an army officer.
A documentary about Wiley and the exhibition is also in development, with filmmaker Jeff Dupre behind the lens.
An Economy of Grace is at Sean Kelly Gallery until June 16. www.skny.com. Kehinde Wiley’s solo show The World Stage: Israel is at The Jewish Museum, New York, until July 29. www.thejewishmuseum.org