Thursday, 11 January 2018

Kehinde Wiley: In Search Of The Miraculous

I hadn't seen any of American Kehinde Wiley's paintings for a long time (here), so I made the effort to catch this exhibition of new works. These latest works are a series of seascapes and a slight departure from his usual imagery in that they attempt to capture action and movement, and in most of them the sea, and not the figure, appears to be the main focus. It is good to see Wiley challenging himself and varying his iconography, but the results are mixed, and not completely convincing or satisfactory. They are inspired by the seascapes of Turner and Winslow Homer - two of the biggest names in that particular genre of art. To cite them as an influence requires a lot of chutzpah, and you had better make sure your own work is up to the comparison. 

The three pictures below, in which the figures dominate the picture frame are more typical of Wiley's work, and more successful as paintings. The harsh lighting, although flattering, and perhaps necessary in depicting the subtle nuances of the range of black skin tones, makes the figures look as though they have been photoshopped onto the backgrounds rather than actually being in the landscape. This may be intentional though, as it is a device (and pitfall), which has been used by many artists since the Renaissance.

Across the street at the other Stephen Friedman Gallery space, you can see the other latest development in Wiley's output - film. Narrenschiff captures on three screens, images of young black men swimming off the coast of Haiti, accompanied by quotes from Foucault and Frantz Fanon about the effects of colonialism.

Kehinde Wiley: In Search Of The Miraculous
until 27th January
Stephen Friedman Gallery
25-28 Old Burlington Street