May 21, 2019

Kehinde Wiley @ Santa Barbara Museum of Art - Equestrian Portrait of Prince Tommaso of Savoy-Carignan

Kehinde Wiley: Equestrian Portrait of Prince Tommaso of Savoy-Carignan
Santa Barbara Museum of Art
Through October 13, 2019

Kehinde Wiley
Equestrian Portrait of Prince Tommaso of Savoy-Carignan, 2015
Oil on canvas
Collection of Dennis and Jeanne Masel
Image courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles
© 2019 Kehinde Wiley

The Santa Barbara Museum of Art (SBMA) presents of a major work by Kehinde Wiley that appears as part of the Museum’s innovative series of public exhibitions, Park Projects. The painting, a large equestrian portrait fashioned after an early 17th-century painting by Dutch master Anthony van Dyck, is on view in the Museum’s Park Entrance space.

Kehinde Wiley has become internationally recognized for his examinations of the aestheticizing of power and masculinity through the time-worn genre of portraiture. This major painting, titled Equestrian Portrait of Prince Tommaso of Savoy-Carignan, is an extension of the artist’s Rumors of War series, which takes the form of historic equestrian portraiture. In Wiley’s hands, this established genre expands in scale to over nine feet in each dimension, and explodes in color with a revelry of bold and bright hues.

For this series, and in much of his work, Kehinde Wiley cast his subjects from young black men he met on the street, mostly from New York. During this process, he invites the individuals to his studio, asks them to choose a painting from art history textbooks, photographs them in that pose—in their own clothing—and then paints them. In this way, Kehinde Wiley subverts the tradition of portraying European nobleman in positions of power by depicting contemporary black men in the same poses. Addressing the politics of race and authority in art, Kehinde Wiley’s work points to the lack of representation of people of color in the history of Western painting, while also challenging present-day portrayals of masculinity.

Anthony van Dyck
Equestrian portrait of Prince Tommaso Francesco of Savoy-Carignan, ca. 1634-35
Oil on canvas
Collection of Sabauda Gallery, Turin, Italy

The painting on view was inspired by a 1634–1635 equestrian portrait by Flemish artist Anthony van Dyck and depicts Prince Tommaso of Savoy-Carignan, an Italian military commander. Painted in a style of relaxed elegance and ease, the portrait attributes a noble status to the subject through artistic tropes used to convey glory, wealth, and prestige. Naming the work after the original source, Kehinde Wiley’s Equestrian Portrait of Prince Tommaso of Savoy-Carignan blurs the boundaries between traditional and contemporary modes of representation. Painting his subject larger-than-life and isolated against a colorful floral background, Kehinde Wiley emphasizes the dignity and nobility of his model.

President Barack Obama, 2017
Oil on canvas
Collection of National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
© 2019 Kehinde Wiley

In 2018, Kehinde Wiley became the first African American artist to paint an official US Presidential portrait for the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. Former US President Barack Obama selected Wiley for this honor. In 2015, Wiley was the subject of a solo exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum in New York, titled A New Republic, which traveled to six venues including the Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio; the Phoenix Museum of Art, Arizona; and the Seattle Art Museum, Washington.

KEHINDE WILEY was born in Los Angeles, California and is based in New York. He received his BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1999 and his MFA from Yale University in 2001. Shortly after, he became an Artist-in-Residence at the Studio Museum in Harlem. His work has been the subject of exhibitions worldwide and is in the permanent collections of numerous museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Studio Museum in Harlem; the Denver Art Museum; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; The Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; the High Museum, Atlanta; the Columbus Museum of Art; the Phoenix Art Museum; the Milwaukee Art Museum; the Jewish Museum, New York; and the Brooklyn Museum, New York.

1130 State Street, Santa Barbara, CA