Sunday 16 February 2014

in portraiture, Nigerian-born Wiley keeps rating high across the world

By Tajudeen Sowole
After impacting on the art landscape of U.S. with his unique portraiture, Nigerian-born American artist, Kehinde Wiley’s popularity keeps spreading.

Few weeks after his work was shown in the ongoing global exhibition in prepaparation for the Brasil 2014 World Cup, Wiley has just been listed among the honourees of the Brooklyn Museum, U.S as part of the museum’s annual fundraising gala, which celebrate the community’s creativity.

One of Kehinde Wiley's works featured in the World Cup exhibition
The section otherwise known as the Brooklyn Artists Ball, according to the organizers, will also honour art patrons Jane and David Walentas as well as artists Jenny Holzer and Ai Weiwei.

Scheduled to hold in April 16, 2014, the honour adds to the recent visibility of Wiley whose art, in recent times have been making impressive outings outside the U.S.

Some of Wiley’s works included that of hip-hop starts such as LL Cool J, Ice T, and Biggie.   

Recently, Wiley was among over 30 artists whose works opened as Fútbol: The Beautiful Game at Lacma, Los Angeles as part of the preparation for Brasil 2014 World Cup.

The exhibition, according to the organisers, examines football and its significance in societies around the world, noting that “as a subject, football touches on issues of nationalism and identity, globalism and mass spectacle, as well as the common human experience shared by spectators from many cultures.” Still on till July, the exhibition features artists, both living and departed, Andy - Warhol inclusive - from around the world “who work in video, photography, painting and sculpture.”

For Wiley, his work at the show continues the artist’s portraiture identity as a No 10 footballer is placed against a patterned background.
Some of the other works viewed online include two room-sized video installations—Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait, by the artists Philippe Parreno and Douglas Gordon; Volta by Stephen Dean—anchor the exhibition; Miguel Calderon’s 2004 video of Mexico v. Brasil representing a 17-0 victory for Mexico.

Late last year, Wiley had his first U.K solo exhibition titled: The World Stage, at the Stephen Friedman Gallery, London. The show was the seventh in the artist’s series of focusing Black communities in Israel, Sri Lanka, Senegal, Nigeria, China and Brazil.

Wiley visited Nigeria in 1997, at the age of 20, after mother insisted he must meet his father.

Based in New York, Wiley is known in the US, Europe and the Middle East as a portraitist whose works are blends of African and western themes.
His work started with focus on the hip-hop scene of Los Angeles, painting youths with ‘sagging’ pants. In fact, his concept, he declared was to cast the hip-hop image in a classicist form.

And since he moved to New York, Wiley’s work has been linked to what observers describe as positive change towards Black youth.

Searching for models for his recent solo show titled, The World Stage, held at Studio Museum, Harlem, New York, earlier in the year, Wiley had to travel across the world. He recalls that the subjects painted in oil and enamel on canvas are models from cosmopolitans cities such as Lagos, Mumbai, Dakar, Rio de Janeiro and Delhi. 

Some of his solo shows are: Economy of Grace
, Sean Kelly Gallery, New York, NY 2011; The World Stage: Israel, Roberts & Tilton, Culver City, CA; and Selected Works, SCAD Museum of Art, Savannah, GA 2010.

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