Brooklyn-based painter Kehinde Wiley's acclaimed World Stage series inserts into the language of old master portraiture the very ethnicities and ethnic iconography that Western art has most excluded from it, or that Western art has portrayed solely in colonial terms. Among the countries and continents the American artist--currently the subject of a major exhibition traveling to Brooklyn, Fort Worth, Toledo, Seattle and Richmond--has previously depicted in this ambitious epic are Brazil, Jamaica, Haiti, Africa, China, India and Sri Lanka. As technically impressive as they are conceptually complex, Wiley's portraits feature young black men in classic heroic poses, destabilizing canonical ideas of white masculinity and power.
For his first exhibition in Europe, Wiley focused on France's history of colonialism, scouring the streets of Morocco, Tunisia, Gabon, the Republic of Congo and Cameroon for men to paint with classic Napoleonic flair. This hardcover volume includes an interview with world-renowned curator Jérôme Sans and 33 lushly colored paintings from Wiley's series, the rococo backgrounds mixed with African street patterns making visible two aspects of France's cultural heritage seldom viewed in tandem.