Kehinde Wiley (American, born 1977)
Over the past decade, Kehinde Wiley has received worldwide acclaim for his portraits of African-American and Latino men, which are based on photographs that the artist takes of everyday citizens. Debunking traditional negative stereotypes that have an extensive history in American culture, Wiley depicts his figures with great dignity, portraying them as beautiful and heroic and basing their poses on those of Old Master portraits. Wiley’s David Lyon (2013) is a strong new addition to the Contemporary Collection. In this heroic black male portrait, the figure’s pose is based on an early nineteenth-century portrait of David Lyon by the British painter Sir Thomas Lawrence. The background patterning of lush organic decoration serves as a metaphor for growth and prosperity and is appropriated from wallpaper designed by William Morris, who was associated with the late nineteenth-century British Arts and Crafts Movement.
Wiley’s earliest subjects were found and photographed on the streets of the Harlem neighborhood of New York City. More recently, he has traveled around the globe and painted images of men of color from other countries, as well as a series of African-American women.
David Lyon was purchased in honor of Harriet O’Banion Kelley with funds provided by the Walter F. Brown Family.