This June Boise Art Museum
presents one of the most significant young American artists today, Kehinde Wiley (b. 1977), who is known for his vibrant, large-scale paintings of black urban men rendered in the self-confident, empowered poses typical of classical European portrait painting. Kehinde Wiley, The World Stage: Israel, on view from June 22 to October 27, 2013, is organized by the Boise Art Museum and sponsored by the Laura Moore Cunningham Foundation. The exhibition will include paintings from private collections and major museums in the United States.
The World Stage: Israel is part of the artists extensive series exploring the global black diaspora and the international phenomenon of urban youth culture. Paintings in The World Stage: Israel are based on photographs the artist took of men of diverse religions and ethnicities living in Israel. Wiley scouted his subjects in discos, malls, bars, and sporting venues in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Lod. The men in this seriesEthiopian and native-born Jews and Arab Israelisexpress a modern sensibility that supersedes religious and ethnic affiliations.
Wiley places the men against elaborate decorative backgrounds based on historical Jewish designs and motifs. To provide examples of the types of traditional artifacts that inspired Wiley, the portraits are complemented in the exhibition by a selection of Jewish textiles and works on paper, loaned by Congregation Ahavath Beth Israel synagogue in Boise.
The hand-carved wooden frames are crowned with emblems borrowed from Jewish decorative tradition: the hands of a Kohen (priest) and the Lion of Judah, symbolizing blessing, power, and majesty. Each crown supports a text. For the portraits of Jewish men the Ten Commandments are used. For Arab men, Wiley chose the plea of Rodney King, victim of a police beating that sparked race riots in the artists home city of Los Angeles in 1991: Can we all get along?