Friday, December 29, 2017

Best of 2017: The Incredible Majesty of Kehinde Wiley's "Trickster"

This hauntingly gorgeous portrait of Wangechi Mutu as a provocative goddess in a royal blue toga style dress, holding a snake. The coiled reptile's stripes mimic the flying twisted locs in her free flowing hair.
One of the best art gallery exhibit highlights of 2017 starred Kehinde Wiley's impressive new paintings at Sean Kelly Gallery in New York City.
The art loving visitor is firstly seduced inside near darkness, wandering around spacious grounds like a lost, hungry traveler in a forest field, the paintings playing storied trees planted on every wall. Clad in alluring mystery, these tremendous, cloak and dagger narratives were spaced apart with single, focused lights casting luminous brilliance upon celebrated contemporary black artists, some of the most compelling painters, photographers, sculptors, and multi-disciplinarians of this moment-- Mickelene Thomas, Hank Willis Thomas, Derrick Addams, and more. Each easily identified artist has become a fictionalized character straight out of a spine tingling Grimm, stripped of modernity, transformed into period costume, regal defiance vividly illustrated in their body language and facial expressions.

Barefoot Rashid Johnson and Sanford Biggers.
Art history buffs love talking about the specifics of hand direction. In the past, in paintings especially, viewers read images left to right, carefully paying close attention to what acts hands perform. Wiley's articulated gestures took away oppressive authorship, allowing black bodies to become valiant protagonists more than lower class subjects. No longer slaves or props, Wiley's myriad of friends appear like Caravaggio or Gentileschi figures, caught in vicious acts (in his portrait of painter Lynette Yiadom-Boakye for example), surrounded in single light sources, either staring out through the canvas or turning away. He has Rashid Johnson's hand on Sanford Biggers shoulder in a tender, bonding moment wearing matching flowing pink shirts, Wangechi Mutu wielding snakes like a sultry Medusa like goddess in a fetching blue toga dress and bounded braids, and Kerry James Marshall in an oval composition using his hands as an educator in three parts.

Glenn Ligon resembled a larger version of Da Vinci's shockingly small Mona Lisa, sitting in comfortable clothes and loafers along a fabric draped rocky place.

Those shoes (and no socks).....

Kerry James Marshall, himself a painting master, is shown in three distinctive acts.

This elegant portrait of Carrie Mae Weems standing amongst rocky mountains and a picturesque desert sky landscape is a stunning achievement. Elaborate patterns and folds of her gold dress are remarkable, her jeweled hand in a powerful clutch, and her curled updo has queenly justice.

The weighted fist holds the glittered rock like a weapon, an extension of power and grace, that there is no fear of harm when this object is nestled sin this fierce grasp.

Wiley is a painter known for putting musicians, rappers, and other pioneers in his Art Noveau meets black realism pedestals. In "Trickster," he includes his fellow black visual artist peers, this body of work a deeper close up of the black artist as the documentarian of the present. Each and every one of these people are creating the works the world needs to see and remember.

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