Kehinde Wiley at the Musee d’Orsay, Paris

Kehinde Wiley is a contemporary American portrait painter. His exceptional work features African Americans in a naturalistic manner most often set against a pattern of bright abstract patterns reminiscent of some of the wallpaper patterns used by European painters in the 19th Century. The portraits themselves are influenced by Renaissance and other classical portrait sources. And his paintings are monumental in size which lends a certain grandeur and intensity to the works.

His works have been featured in a number of major shows and retrospectives. I first really became aware of his work when I saw a retrospective of his work in Houston some years back. And the Milwaukee Art Museum has a prime example of his work! His most famous work however is his recent portrait of former President Barack Obama for the National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian. A portrait true to Wiley’s work but something amazing compared to the tradition of presidential portraits.

© 2018 Kehinde Wiley. Courtesy of the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery

So it was a very pleasant surprise to find a major Kehinde Wiley painting and installation on the main floor of the Musee d’Orsay in Paris. The Musee d’Orsay is a major home of primarily French art from the impressionists through post-impressionists. So you find Rodin, Monet, Gauguin, Van Gogh, and others. But to see not only a living contemporary artist…but an American one at that…and in a prime location with a monumental piece…is simply astonishing.

The work is titled An Archaeology of Silence and features one of Wiley’s signature paintings…but also includes two monumental bronze sculptures as well…a medium that I wasn’t aware that Wiley worked in. But here are a few photos that I shot of the installation and you can see the incredible detail that went into this work. (what I didn’t do is shoot all three pieces in one frame, a regrettable oversight on my part)

photo © 2022 Ed Heinzelman
photo © 2022 Ed Heinzelman
photo © 2022 Ed Heinzelman
photo © 2022 Ed Heinzelman
photo © 2022 Ed Heinzelman
photo © 2022 Ed Heinzelman

And now I am going to attempt to type in the information from the wall placard rather than letting you strain your eyes reading my blurred photo of it:

For nearly 15 years, Kehinde Wiley (who was born in Los Angeles in 1977) has based his work around subverting identities and stereotypes. He has played a pioneering role in the historical rereading of effigies of heroes who were sometimes less than heroic. The artist emphasizes the arrogance of the erect pose, from full-length portraits to equestrian statues. He began by raising the profile of unknown members of oppressed communities of people of colour worldwide by depicting them in these dominant poses, often adopting famous compositions from the history of western painting and statuary.

The works exhibited here, which were unveiled at the Venice Biennale in the spring mark a new direction by showcasing anonymous recumbent figures in the manner of fallen heroes. By depicting his models as victims, but without pathos, Kehinde Wiley elevates them in their state of abandon, in an approach at odds with the conspicuous masculinity advocated by the American model. In the huge painting presented here, in close proximity to the marble figures in the museum which inspired him, the artist submerges the experience of violence in an irrational decorative space. The vulnerability elevated to the monumental scale resonates as an ode to youth and resilience.

from the Musee d’Orsay

And extra credit reading from the Musee’s website: Contemporary readings: Kehinde Wiley From September 13th, 2022 to January 08th, 2023

I Didn’t Know This Was An Event: Baraboo’s Big Top Parade & Circus Celebration

June 25, 2022

The Big Top Parade will return to the streets of downtown Baraboo on Saturday, June 25, 2022 for the first time since 2019. Historic wagons, exotic animals, marching bands and community floats will delight parade goers, highlighting a weekend full of circus-themed fun.

The main event — the Big Top Parade — kicks off at 11:00 a.m. Along with our grand marshal, the parade features traditional circus parade units and circus-themed entries created by community groups and businesses. Young and old will be enthralled by the circus wagons, marching bands, horses and other animals and of course, a cavalcade of clowns!

Before and after the parade, the Baraboo area and our downtown will be filled with family-friendly events. This year’s Big Top Parade and Circus Celebration will take on the theme Circus World has adopted for its 2022 performance season…

More info? Click here: Here comes the circus parade!

A Place For A Muse: A New Series Coming To AIP!

My wife is a working artist and educator. I have dabbled in art most of my life. So vacations nearly everywhere we go includes visits to museums or other cultural sites. So this idea has been wandering around in the back of my brain for a month or two now. But it is finally starting to come into focus.

But basically the idea is to write about actual museums. When critics visit museums it is generally to review a particular seasonal or traveling show. All well and good and quite exciting to read. But unless a museum is opening or re-opening after a remix/remodel, nothing is written about the actual museum.

So my plan is to change that. As we travel and visit museums I certainly may continue to comment on significant shows…but I want to document the actual museum; its location, its physical appearance, its physical presence, its various amenities, and its collection(s) or specialties.

Sound like fun? I hope so.

But why the title, A Place For A Muse? Well one of the hang ups in putting this idea to work was a working title. And that all came apparent to be apparent while attending a university class on mythology and the professor mentioned that museum comes from muse. And looking around the internet I found any number of fuller translations from the Latin or Greek…like seat of the muses, shrine to the muses, place for the muses, etc. So I pondered any number of these sources and definitions and went with a simpler and hopefully more apropos title.

Hope you come back to read about my discoveries and thoughts about museums!