New York

Kehinde Wiley

The Studio Museum in Harlem

Kehinde Wiley’s formula hasn’t changed much since he broke out around the time of his residency at the Studio Museum in Harlem (2001–2002), but the impact of his paintings has. Originally, Wiley’s juxtaposition of statuesque black men in the freshest gear mugging in poses lifted from seventeenth- and eighteenth-century paintings and slapped on top of wallpaper-like motifs appeared lurid and forceful, even subversive. Not only were blacks occupying a milieu redolent of European decadence (as evinced by rococo and baroque ornamentation), the sexuality that has flavored portraiture throughout history here resided in men—men who were occasionally enmeshed in sperm-like design flourishes, painted by another man.

Whispers about Wiley’s process and its distinct similarity to a pick-up abounded; he apparently spotted potential models on sidewalks and invited them to his studio, where they flipped

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