Art: Kehinde Wiley: Memling

Kehinde Wiley: Memling continues through Oct. 5. Taft Museum of Art.

Aug 26, 2014 at 12:00 am
click to enlarge "After Memling’s Portrait of a Man in a Red Hat" by Kehinde Wiley
"After Memling’s Portrait of a Man in a Red Hat" by Kehinde Wiley

“Sexy” and “hot” aren’t adjectives that spring to mind when thinking about the stately museum and its collection. But those words do describe the international star power of New York-based artist Kehinde Wiley. And it’s tough to imagine a place better suited for his small-yet-bold Memling series than the Taft. 

Wiley’s signature is to rethink the Old Masters with a modern eye.

Born in 1977 in South Central Los Angeles and educated at Yale, Wiley is famous for grand-scale, hyper-realistic paintings featuring black men in Hip Hop clothes against bright and elaborate floral backgrounds. Though from the streets, the sitters adopt the sophisticated poses of the privileged white men depicted in Renaissance works. 

In 2013, Wiley shifted his style to create a collection of intimate (15-by-20 and smaller) paintings modeled after portraits by 15th century Flemish painter Hans Memling. As soon as the oil-on-wood series debuted at the Phoenix Art Museum, the Taft knew it needed to bring the eight pieces here. 

Kehinde Wiley: Memling continues through Oct. 5. Taft Museum of Art, 316 Pike St., Downtown. Artist talk 6:30 p.m. Sept. 17; $15, $10 members and students. Registration required: 513-684-4515 or