new-york

“Ironic/Iconic”

The Studio Museum in Harlem

Likening an artist’s work to Chagall’s is hardly most people’s idea of a compliment. Yet it’s hard to ignore a positive connection when looking at Easter Realness, 2002, a painting by Kehinde Wiley, one of three artists in residence at the Studio Museum in Harlem featured in the exhibition “Ironic/Iconic.” The majestic canvas is turned forty-five degrees so that its corners touch the floor and ceiling. Two men, one wearing a pink and the other a yellow suit, seemingly drift across a decorative green-and-red ground strewn with roses. Both men float upside down while looking directly at the viewer, even as their heads bend back to imply, paradoxically, that their eyes are turned upward toward the sky. Spun visually off its axes, the canvas seems to defy gravity and perspective, translating Chagall’s romantic violinists and magical kisses into a contemporary dream scene of Sunday epiphany.

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