Questions With Artists

Throwback Interviews

Kehinde Wiley

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  • Kehinde Wiley
    LL Cool J, 2005
    Oil on canvas, 96 x 72 in
    LL Cool J
    Image courtesy of Kehinde Wiley

  • Kehinde Wiley
    Place Soweto (National Assembly), 2008
    Oil on canvas, 8 x 6 ft.
    Courtesy the artist and Deitch Projects, NY

  • Kehinde Wiley
    Big Daddy Kane, 2005
    Oil on canvas, 96 x 72 in
    John Morrissey, courtesy of Roberts & Tilton, Los Angeles, California
    Image courtesy of Kehinde Wiley

  • Cover of The World Stage: Africa Lagos ~ Dakar, 2008, Rizzoli NY.
    Pictured: Kehinde Wiley
    On Top of the World, 2008
    Oil on canvas, 6 x 5 ft.
    Courtesy the artist and Deitch Projects, NY

The public response to the Kehinde Wiley show at the Jewish Museum, The World Stage: Israel has sparked interest in his earlier body of works, which is fantastic! We are always excited to see interviews and footage resurface so we can reflect on an artist's work.

A radio interview from 2005 was highlighted on public radio program Studio360's blog this week. The show’s host, Kurt Andersen, visited Wiley at his studio and asked in depth questions about the alpha males figuring prominently in his works, the impact of Western art traditions on his practice, and the projects he was pursuing at the time. At the time Wiley had returned from traveling abroad in west Africa and was in the process of painting his intimate scaled portraits of boys and men from Lagos, Nigeria and Dakar, Senegal. “So much of the history of painting is the propaganda of self aggrandizement,” Wiley pointed out as he reiterated his desire to take his chance encounters with men on the streets of New York and eventually around the world, and portray them heroically in grand portraits. Wiley’s remarks that “in painting one thing we still have is the trace of human presence – hand to paper. The more you get away from the traditional forms, the more it only heightens that very essential human element” will remain with us for a long time!

During the interview Andersen also draws particular attention to Wiley’s commission from VH1 for the 2005 Hip Hop honorees, which included Ice T, LL Cool J, Big Daddy Kane, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, and others. The six paintings for the occasion were later incorporated into the groundbreaking Recognize! Hip Hop and Contemporary Portraiture, a 2008 exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, which embraced multimedia by photographer David Scheinbaum, graffiti artists Tim Conlon and David Hupp, filmmaker Jefferson Pinder, and poet Nikki Giovanni. Hungry for more info about Recognize!? Revisit the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery and be sure to take a listen to their featured interview inviting Wiley to reflect on portraying his cast of hip-hop royalty.

The World Stage: Africa Lagos ~ Dakar: Kehinde Wiley (2008) is available from our Museum Store.