Wiley uses An Economy of Grace to address the lack of Afrocentric beauty in art’s history. The subjects’ — who were cast straight off the streets of New York City — poses are based on historical portraits of society women by Jacques-Louis David, Thomas Gainsborough and John Singer Sargent, and other notable painters.
Along with the help of Riccardo Tisci, Creative Director of the famed French couture house Givenchy, Wiley fitted the women with custom dresses (designed by Tisci) and did his best rendition of some of art’s most memorable portrait.
“The phrase ‘an economy of grace’ speaks directly to the ways in which we manufacture and value grace and honor, the people that we choose to bestow that honor upon, and the ways in which grace is at once an ideal that we strive for and something that is considered to be a natural human right. I am painting women in order to come to terms with the depictions of gender within the context of art history. One has to broaden the conversation…This series of works attempts to reconcile the presence of black female stereotypes that surrounds their presence and/or absence in art history, and the notions of beauty, spectacle, and the ‘grand’ in painting.” – Kehinde Wiley.
Wiley and Tisci didn’t just jump into the project, they spent a generous amount of time walking around the Louvre and discussing the project’s aesthetic and conceptual context. The results is a body of elegant and illustrious work that encapsulates a stunning amount of detail and color.
Running through June 16th, we strongly suggest that you stop by Sean Kelly and see Wiley’s work with your own eyes.
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