Kanye West (2015)
Signed, dated and editioned bronze; 59 x 48 x 33 cm
Edition of 3 plus 2 artist’s proofs
Copyright the artist. Courtesy Stephen Friedman Gallery, London; Sean Kelly Gallery, New York; Galerie Templon, Paris and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles
"Violence, anti-social behaviour and streets on fire” is how American artist Kehinde Wiley describes where he grew up - South Central Los Angeles - in the late ‘80s. Determined to keep him safe, his mother kept him home after school and enrolled him in weekend art classes; during museum visits Wiley became aware of how few black subjects were portrayed in the western art canon.
Wiley is known for his naturalistic representation of black and brown people in noble, heroic and majestic poses. His subjects are usually depicted in contemporary, urban clothing but their bearing and background is often a re-staging of classical European artworks of royal, eminent and biblical figures. This sculpture of Kanye West - a man known for his verbosity, creativity and unpredictability - has the quiet, composed thoughtfulness reminiscent of Rodin’s Gustav Mahler. In replacing classical art’s white subjects with black and brown protagonists, Wiley addresses their absence in art history and affirms their presence: “Painting is about the world we live in. Black men live in the world. My choice is to include them. This is my way of saying yes to us.”
Wiley painted the official portrait of Barack Obama that hangs in the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery.
For more information: stephenfriedman.com
Hedge issue 53, pp52-57, March 2019