Kehinde Wiley, the artist behind former President Barack Obama’s much-mocked official portrait, has a dark theme he likes to dabble in when it comes to painting.
Art critic Gayle Clemans said of a recent exhibition of the portrait artist, that he “asks us to think about biases in the art-historical canon and pop culture, as well as issues of race, class, gender and sexual orientation.”
“He fuses awkwardness with elegance, intimacy with spectacle,” she wrote.
We’re wondering if these works fall into the ‘awkwardness’ category or the ‘thinking about biases’ category.
It was fun dragging Obama for his bizarre presidential portrait, but I didn’t have a problem w/ it. After looking at other paintings by the artist, Kehinde Wiley, a theme emerges tho: (1) lots of flowery backdrops (2) surprising amount of Black Panthers & decapitated white women. pic.twitter.com/M75x21xQF8
— Jerry Dunleavy IV (@JerryDunleavy) February 12, 2018
The two paintings featuring a beheading come from a collection titled “Judith and Holofernes,” which refers to a story from the Biblical story of Judith beheading the Assyrian general Holofernes.
Wiley has earned fame as an artist who typically uses black subjects in his works, so his use of white women having their heads severed is a curious one.
Jon Levine of The Wrap noted the particular use of a white woman in each portrait.
That Obama artist, Kehinde Wiley, is also know for these fun paintings, which you can file under
“Imagine if this showed a TKTK ” pic.twitter.com/4M0Tg1rZSG
— Jon Levine (@LevineJonathan) February 12, 2018
“In keeping with his long-running style of painting black subjects in poses based on classic imagery from Western art and iconography, Wiley depicted Judith as a powerful black woman,” Levine wrote. “His reasons for keeping Holofernes white and changing the general into a woman remain less clear.”
Obama praised Wiley’s work when he chose the artist, saying, “what I was always struck by when I saw [Wiley’s] portraits was the degree to which they challenged our ideas of power and privilege.”
Imagine had a Trump-appointed artist done anything vaguely like this man’s work in their past, using different races for their subjects. Would they be lauded as ‘challenging our ideas of power and privilege’?
What do you think of this artist’s work? Share your opinions below!