139 NE 39th Street, Design District, Miami
Deitch Projects, in collaboration with the Miami Design District, presented Faux Real, a painting installation by Kehinde Wiley, inspired by a Venetian scuola. The work was be installed in the Miami Design District, 139 NE 39th Street, from December 4 - 11, 2003. It opened Thursday evening, December 4th, as part of the Second Annual Art Loves Design Party. The installation featured something rarely seen in contemporary art, a spectacular ceiling painting, along with eight arched altarpieces. The works referenced specific paintings by Titian and Tiepolo, but Wiley incorporated a range of art historical and vernacular styles, from the French rococo to the contemporary urban street. He collapsed various historical styles into a uniquely contemporary vision.
Wiley described his approach as “interrogating the notion of the master painter, at once critical and complicit.” He made figurative paintings that “quote historical sources and position young black men within that field of ‘power.’” His “slightly heroic” figures, slightly larger than life size, were depicted in poses of power and spiritual awakening. He deliberately mixed images of power and spirituality, using them as a filter in the portrayal of masculinity.
The figures in the ceiling painting were neither falling nor rising, floating in a static middle ground. The figures were relatively expressionless, allowing the viewers to project their own self-image into the work. The models were young men who the artist met on the street, mostly from 125th Street in Harlem. They were asked to assume poses from works by Titian and Tiepolo, dressed in their street clothes. Wiley did not alter the style of the clothing, changing only the color and the pattern. The viewer could easily assume that the poses were derived from contemporary hip-hop attitudes, rather than Venetian Old Master paintings.
Wiley also incorporated late French rococo ornamentation, transforming gold filigree into schools of swimming sperm. He explained how sperm had an amazing potential to create life, but would most likely expire in the process, making them both heroic and pathetic. Wiley’s embrace of the French rococo, with its garishness and vulgarity, complemented his embrace of hip-hop culture, making his approach both historical and contemporary.
In an insightful essay for the brochure that accompanied Ironic Iconic, the exhibition of the 2001-2002 Artists-in-Residence at the Studio Museum in Harlem, Malik Gaines described how “Wiley sifts through the remnants of his culture and is able to build a whole from these many cluttering parts…With the stroke of his brush, Wiley brings his black boys to life, giving them just enough strength to contend with the terrible and beautiful pasts that continuously encroach upon all of us.”
Kehinde Wiley was born in Los Angeles in 1977. He received a BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1999 and an MFA from Yale in 2001. In addition to Ironic Iconic, his work was featured in Black Romantic at the Studio Museum-in-Harlem in 2002. At that time, Wiley lived and worked in New York. This was his first solo exhibition at a commercial gallery.
The artist and Deitch Projects were grateful to Craig Robins for his generous support of this exhibition.
March 8 - 11, 2018
We will present a special solo project by the artist JR.
Image: JR, Migrants, Walking New York City, 2015
April - May 2018
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