Everything You See Israel
Kehinde Wiley presents a sociological study of race, religion and identity in his upcoming exhibition The World Stage: Israel, which opens March 9 at the Jewish Museum. Wiley is best known for his highly glamorized depictions of young urban men, in which he blends components of hip-hop culture and fashion with stylistic traditions belonging to Renaissance and Baroque portraiture. For The World Stage, Wiley shifted his focus from young American men to the young men of Israel. He traveled to Jerusalem, Televiv and Lod, searching for his subjects: Arab Israelis and Ethiopian and native-born Jews whom he felt possessed a confidence and modernity which transcended barriers of race and religion.
In the portraits, Wiley incorporates religious iconography with references to contemporary issues of identity. The ornate backgrounds of the paintings, for instance, are inspired by Jewish ceremonial papercuts. The frames of the portraits of Arab men, however, make a reference to more contemporary issues of racial politics. They read, “Can we all get along?”, which was famously said by Rodney King after the acquittal of the L.A police at his trial. The portraits work to honor the past while also establishing the need for understanding and acceptance of the present.
The World Stage: Israel will be on view at the Jewish Museum from March 9- July 29, 2012
© Kehinde Wiley; Courtesy of Roberts & Tilton, Culver City, California