Kehinde Wiley: The Membling Series @ Phoenix Art Museum
February 20, 2013 - June 23, 2013
Phoenix Art Museum will premier a new series of paintings by the New York artist Kehinde Wiley (American, b. 1976). Wiley gained critical acclaim for his heroic portraits addressing image and status of young men of color within a framework that re-envisions classical styles of portraiture and empowers his sitters. His latest series continues this interest with eight paintings based on the work of Hans Memling (1430-1494)—the Flemish master painter of the Northern Renaissance. At a time when portraiture focused primarily on royalty and leaders of the church, Memling created realistic portraits of ordinary individuals set against realistic backgrounds such as verdant landscapes, windowsills or columned spaces. Wiley’s paintings reinterpret Memling’s works, replacing the austere 15th century figures with the engaging, bold subjects of young black men in street clothes. Wiley’s Memling series represents a serious departure in style and scale from his previous work. They are painted on wood panel – a first in Wiley’s career. The new works is also much smaller: measuring between 11 x 15 inches and 15 x 20 inches. This represents a marked contrast to Wiley’s previous work, which utilized grand scale and perspective to create a sense of power and heroism but these small and intimate portraits are equally bold and powerful, commanding a closer viewing.
Image: Kehinde Wiley, Marechal Floriano Peixoto, 2009