Stephen Friedman Gallery presents internationally renowned American artist Kehinde Wiley’s second exhibition at the gallery entitled, ‘In Search of the Miraculous’. This exhibition marks a crucial moment in Wiley’s career, as he sets out to push both his artistic process and social critique in to new territory.
Presenting nine new paintings and his first three-channel artist film, Wiley interweaves the canon of art history with present day politics to investigate key subjects of migration, madness and isolation in contemporary America. This comes at a critical time when the current political administration is seeking to fortify land and sea borders with an agenda that resonates globally.
In this exciting new body of work, Wiley departs from the singular portrait style for which he is most celebrated and engages with both classical romanticism and epic maritime allegorical painting. In a series of seascape paintings, Wiley captures dramatic scenes of men battling perilous waves at sea and more contemplative and serene portraits of men on shorelines. Here the artist crucially replaces the bold patterned textile backgrounds of previous work with darker, more earthy tones that evoke the unyielding nature of the sea.
Wiley consistently positions his practice firmly in the realism of the everyday and draws inspiration from classical portraiture while appropriating the tropes of historical paintings to engage contemporary subjects. Selecting local young men from the rough areas of remote island nations, Wiley begins by photographing his subjects in the mirrored pose of a specific historical painting. These are ordinary men wearing their own clothing and, as with previous works, each one is valorised with the same significance as their paired historical source.
In developing this compelling body of work, Wiley reinterprets seascapes by J.M.W. Turner, Winslow Homer and Hieronymus Bosch, and drives forward a striking new visual style that pronounces his unparalleled painting skill. This new series retains Wiley’s familiar figurative aesthetic and at the same time expands the scope and ambition of his painting.