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  • Provenance

    Roberts & Tilton, Los Angeles

  • Exhibited

    Hollandale, Wisconsin, Kohler Foundation, Kehinde Wiley World Stage: China, 2007

  • Literature

    Kehinde Wiley World Stage: China, exh. cat., Kohler Foundation, New York, 2007 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    The heroic portraits of contemporary African-American men
    by New York artist Kehinde Wiley are modern interpretations of
    classic poses from the annals of art history. Culled from a wide
    range of sources, including the cupola-shaped frescoes of Giotto,
    the ornamental rococo portraits of Fragonard and the opulent
    canvases of 18th-century British painters Thomas Gainsborough
    and Joshua Reynolds, Wiley’s imagery addresses the image and
    status of the young men he depicts in a photo-realistic style. The
    present lot, the monumental Learn from Comrade Wang Guofu!,
    comes from a series of portraits in which Wiley appropriates
    the iconography of Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution. Having
    established a studio in Beijing in 2006, Wiley had his subjects
    model in poses from 1950s and 1960s Maoist propaganda, while
    his employees and trained students from the Central Academy of
    Fine Arts executed his designs. The works in the series bear titles
    lifted from Cultural Revolution mantras.
    “The resulting paintings create an incongruous tension between
    context and content; revolutions happen the same way, pulling
    a society apart and putting it back together again. The Chinese
    emulated the role posters played in the Russian Revolution by
    remixing them for the Cultural Revolution. Wiley’s paintings are
    in turn tools for unpacking the clichés that constitute reality,
    reminding us that propaganda sends mixed messages to the
    public. Whether the revolution took place in Russia or China or
    in the early Dada posters of Zurich and Berlin, the same process
    occurs: the utilization of public space for tactical reasons.
    Wiley’s cycle of appropriation – of taking and “repurposing” the
    elements of style – challenges historical paradigms on another
    level. The remix is global and Wiley’s re-purposing of communist
    China prompts reflection on culture’s collision with ideology and
    commerce. The paintings provide a sense of history’s place in
    the PRC’s current post-socialist consumer economy. The last
    century’s traumatic ideological struggles have exhausted all desire
    to derive meaningful lessons from the past—both in America,
    where history is a scarce resource, and in China, where history
    was torn apart by the radical events of the Cultural Revolution,
    awaiting reconstruction from scratch. Whether it appears now in
    theme parks, period tele-dramas or urban renewal, China’s recent
    history has been transformed into a mode of leisure edu-tainment
    in which questions of authenticity and accuracy give way to an
    aestheticized postmodern pastiche of signs and commodification.”
    (Paul D. Miller, ‘New World Portraiture’, Art Asia Pacific:
    Contemporary Visual Culture, 2009)

  • Artist Biography

    Kehinde Wiley

    Applying the language and devices of royal portraiture to unnamed archetypes of the Black American experience, Kehinde Wiley bestows the pride and prestige of history painting to groups that it has too often overlooked. Rather than depicting the European aristocracy, Wiley’s portraits d’apparats place African Americans against florid backdrops and atop rearing horses, retaining the pomp and opulence of his historical antecedents and situating Black men and women dressed in everyday clothing as the subjects of art historical aggrandization. Often the accoutrements of urban life lend themselves quite readily to historical genres of portraiture; Air Jordans and Timberland boots can be as appropriate to monarchist might as emerald and ermine. Wiley’s goal is twofold: by subverting outmoded forms of expression through the substitution of the sitter, the artist criticizes the historical neglect of adequate Black representation and glorifies undeservingly maligned representatives of modern American life, what he calls “the ability to create painting and destroy painting at once.”

    Wiley’s work has been the subject of universal acclaim. His work can be found in the collections of major institutions across the world, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford. Wiley was also selected in 2017 to paint the official portrait of President Barack Obama, the first Black artist to be given such an honor. Recently, Wiley founded Black Rock, an artist residency in Dakar, Senegal, bringing an important artistic resource to the African continent.

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Learn from Comrade Wang Guofu!

Oil and enamel on canvas in the artist's frame.

256.5 x 228.6 cm (101 x 90 in).

Signed and dated 'Kehinde Wiley 07' on the reverse.

£45,000 - 55,000 

Sold for £73,250

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

13 October 2010