21c Film Screening: Kehinde Wiley: An Economy of Grace. Wiley set out to address the conspicuous lack of black subjects in western European art.
May 21, 2014
This month, in lieu of a film from the Art21 collection, 21c is eager to present Kehinde Wiley: An Economy of Grace. Inspired by childhood visits to the Huntington Library outside of Los Angeles where he grew up, Kehinde Wiley set out to address the conspicuous lack of black subjects in western European art. He began by painting portraits of young men – models he hand-picked from the streets of Harlem – placing them in the vernacular of artists such as Ingres and Titian. The poses were classical and the clothing, the model’s own. The result was an arresting alchemy of highbrow and hip-hop that put a brand new spin on a traditional form. The film chronicles the development of Kehinde Wiley’s eponymous portrait series—finding his subjects on the streets of New York City, contextualizing them in poses based on those typical of 18th- and 19th-century paintings, and partnering with fashion house Givenchy to create haute-couture gowns for the sitters—raising fundamental questions surrounding patronage and art history. As Wiley describes the series, which was first shown at Sean Kelly in May of 2012: “I am painting women in order to come to terms with the depictions of gender within the context of art history. One has to broaden the conversation.” An Economy of Grace is directed and produced by Louisville-native Jeff Dupre along with producers Jessica Chermayeff, and Ana Veselic and is distributed by Show of Force.