Kehinde Wiley’s Spring

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Kehinde Wiley

From New York:

“I wanted beautiful women,” says the 37-year-old artist Kehinde Wiley. It was the summer of 2011, and Wiley — known primarily for his ornate, classical-style portraits of young black men — was scouting the streets of Harlem, Brooklyn, and Queens for new subjects. Female subjects, for his first formal attempt at painting women. “I knew that I wanted to cast a broad net and not go within the fashion-world-model look. I wanted women who had a sense of self-possession and a kind of haughtiness that you can just pick up on.”

With his team of two or three plus a camera crew (the project was filmed for a PBS documentary called Kehinde Wiley: An Economy of Grace), he took scouting snapshots on the street, eventually whittling his list of subjects down to just seven.

Over the next several months, Wiley photographed them, had them fitted for haute-couture gowns designed by Riccardo Tisci at Givenchy, then painted them large-scale, in works modeled after French and British portraits from the 18th and 19th centuries (pictured this page). A number of them will be on display at a retrospective of Wiley’s work opening February 20 at the Brooklyn Museum, in what will likely be one of the big exhibitions of the winter.

Read more at New York.