Kehinde Wiley is a Textile Addict
Thank goodness. I first saw one of his paintings at the Met, and my first reaction was, wow, that background looks like African prints! And it was.
Image (c) Kehinde Wiley, via Newsweek.
PSFK: How did you choose which designs to use?
KW: I went to the streets. I was in Africa with my friends, and we went out into the markets and looked at reams and reams of fabric- later figuring out which photo, which portrait worked best with what- it was really a hands on and sort of intuitive experience. There’s no concise system for it, it was more of an ineffable process. A visceral decision about what had the right look and feel for what we were doing.
I wish he were more specific about what cities or regions he was in, because textiles are so tied to the local culture – there is really no such thing as an "African" fabric.
I’m not such a fan of his portraits, actually – I’ve never been a big modern art fan. But I am definitely a huge fan of making art accessible to everyone, especially those who are typically not among the elite of arts patrons.
KW:There is actually a lot of conceptual overlap between the two projects. My work is about engaging the contemporary global street-whether it’s Harlem or Columbo, Sri Lanka. And many people say it’s hip hop , many people say it’s a global cultural urgency which is driven by a sort of African essence- I don’t know what it is- but to engage with popular culture is something that I’m excited about. I mean, in the 21st century artists occupy many different states- and it is my job to do whatever it is I do as well as possible. To view the world through my eyes and make my vision resonate with the viewer.
(I thought I had previously done a post on Yinka Shonibare, but I guess not. Anyway, I love his work – it’s the perfect combination of critique, sarcasm, rococo fashion, traditional textiles, and colonialism – it’s like we have the same brain. Google him.)
Quotes via PSFK.