The Brooklyn Museum is wrapping up its mid-career retrospective of artist Kehinde Wiley — which means 14 years of work and something like 60 paintings.
It’s been drawing a diverse and large crowd, partly because Wiley’s work has been featured on the TV show Empire, and partly because he is a well-known and, in some ways, controversial figure in the art world. Wiley takes contemporary figures — oftentimes young black men and women — and places them in old European art traditions: Oil paintings, portraits, stained glass and even bronze sculpture.
Wiley tells NPR’s Audie Cornish that the first time he stepped into a museum as a child, it was incredibly intimidating. “Great big paintings, history, gilded frames, a sense of power, a sense of majesty,” he says. “It was alienating but it was fabulous at the same time, because I was trying to learn how to paint. And here you had images where people had spent hundreds of years trying to figure out how to coax reality into form, and here it was.”
Photo credits: (Top) Katherine Wetzel/Virginia Museum of Fine Arts/Copyright Kehinde Wiley (Left) Jason Wyche/Courtesy of Sean Kelly/Copyright Kehinde Wiley (Right) Courtesy of Galerie Daniel Templon, Paris/Copyright Kehinde Wiley (Bottom) Courtesy of the Brooklyn Museum/Copyright Kehinde Wiley