Kehine Wiley and Basquiat at the Brooklyn Museum

sculptureBoth Kehine Wiley and Basquiat are exhibits currently at the Brooklyn Museum.  Wiley ends on May 24th but Basquiat continues until August 23rd.  I am really glad that we got to see both exhibits at the same time.

stainedglassBoth of these black men are artists who have created art for many of the same reasons.  Wiley was born in LA to a Nigerian father and a Haitian mother.  He has been trained as an artist receiving his BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1999 and his MFA from Yale in 2001.

longphotoHe has painted young black men and women from the streets and hip-hop culture into paintings of old masters.  The pieces draw attention to the old paintings back to the 1500’s where black people are completely absent.  Wiley looked at work that work from the past and did not see the reflections of himself.

grinI particularly loved this video piece called Smile.  It is about young black men having to grin and bear it when it comes to racial profiling.  These men basically had to hold a smile as long as possible.  Not easy.

flemishThis piece is akin to the Flemish painters of the 1500s where only super wealthy white men were painted.  All three of the pieces showed black men who were obviously well off.

princessHere is a woman wearing beautiful clothing from Ricardo Tisci and she appears to be dripping in wealth recognizing beauty and glamour of that time.

basquaitThe Basquiat show is called the Unknown Notebooks.  A self-taught artist who was influenced by what he saw and the times.  He was a major graffiti artist.  This quote is something that Wiley felt as well.

wallThere were pieces from his notebook and graffiti pieces that appear to have been cut out and shown.  The video in the back shows him with a spray paint can marking the walls of NYC.

hugepieceThis large piece was pretty amazing.  An endless stream of conscious.  He was a prolific and gifted self-taught artist never even graduating high school.

It was really interesting to see both of these exhibits at the same time.  I didn’t love the Basquiat exhibit as much as I loved the Wiley exhibit.  The notebooks were of interest but I would have liked to see more of his work which is so vast.  He was shown in large galleries early in his career and it would have been great to see more of that.  The juxtaposition of two black male artists; one who has been educated in the arts using classic historical readings to create art today and the other who created on the streets.

Try and get there before Wiley closes.  Two very different artists who in many ways come to their art from the same reasons.

Comments (Archived):

  1. johndodds

    In 2005, I went to a huge Basquiat exhibition there. It ranks as one of the best I’ve ever seen.

    1. Gotham Gal

      I missed it!

  2. awaldstein

    Thanks for the heads up.When I was buying prints of Haring and Lichtenstein back a decade ago, I always appreciated Basquiat but never wanted one in my home.

    1. Gotham Gal


  3. Roslyn

    Kehinde, not Kehine.

  4. Brandon Burns

    Kehinde spends a good part of the year in Beijing, where we met when I lived there because he was friends with my friends there. I have a couple good dinner party stories for you should we cross paths again in person. 🙂

    1. Gotham Gal


  5. Yinka!

    A great pairing. That piece in the first photo is amazing. A recent interesting NYT profile on Wiley: