The mere fact that all 15 paintings for The World Stage: Israel were put on reserved sight unseen attests to Kehinde Wiley's achievement as an artist. If you're familiar with Kehinde's work, it's not difficult to understand his meteoric rise to success. In each painting, Kehinde depicts young men of color in highly stylized, regal poses often blurring the boundaries between traditional and contemporary modes of representation. This past Saturday, Kehinde put the real people of Israel in the spotlight. Going beyond media stereotypes of national identity to depict a true community of Arab Israelis, Ethiopian Jews, and Ashkenazi Jews, Kehinde showcases the immense diversity of a country against a colorful background of intricate asymmetrical patterns used in Jewish history. This cultural celebration was also seen in the details of several frames as well. A Jewish blessing hand gesture used by the kohanim (genealogical descendants of the Jewish priests who served in the Jerusalem Temple) during worship services, were noticeably carved at the top. An interesting pop culture side note, it is said that actor Leonard Nimoy, who played Spock on Star Trek, based the Vulcan salute on this ceremonial blessing.
Kehinde Wiley's latest exhibit drew quite a crowd including art critic Ezrha Jean Black as well as artists Kelly Berg, Natalia Fabia, and Retna. Be sure to check out The World Stage: Israel too at Roberts & Tilton if you haven't already. Show runs until May 28th.