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Kehinde Wiley in Dress Up, Speak Up: Regalia and Resistance

Bedecked and bejeweled, the figures populating Dress Up, Speak Up occupy fluid space and time, evoking past and present, fact and fiction, memory and desire, to illuminate the complexity of contemporary identity. Whether clad in the stylized garb of Enlightenment-era Europe, the traditional coverings of ancient religious tradition, or the gender-bending bling of popular culture, these representations of self and other role-play in real time, reach back through history to address prevailing personal, social, and political challenges. From Ebony G. Patterson’s families, dancers, gangstas, and deceased, to portraits derived from allegory, autobiography, and the art canon by Titus Kaphar, Firelei Báez, Berni Searle, Vivek Vilasini, Fahamu Pecou, and others, this pantheon of provocative and prophetic personages are adorned to confront, transform, and redefine cultural visibility.

Working exclusively in portraiture, Kehinde Wiley fuses traditional formats and motifs with modern modes of representation. Selecting works from old masters from art history, Wiley replaces the original figures with young African American men from his community in New York. (In recent years Wiley has begun painting women and people outside of the U.S.). Morpheus, a painting of grand scale is installed right behind the Front Desk and is often times the first piece of art our guests see when entering the Lobby. It’s a great representation of our current exhibition Dress Up, Speak Up and additionally very fitting for a hotel, since Morpheus from Greek Mythology (and the film The Matrix) is the God of Dreams.

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