Photo: American Express Bryan Bedder / Getty Images
It’s hard to know where to start when you’re only a few minutes away with someone like Kehin Dewiley, the most well-known legendary artist in Barack Obama’s portraits of 2018. Trapped in the corner of a very dark and noisy bar in the Miami Beach Edition, a packed and expensive hotel on the beach next to Faena. Art Basel is always a little crazy, but this year it’s held on a sort of enthusiastic pitch, confusing art and fashion parties, and NFT “activation” from dawn to 4am.
Wily took a short break from the mess for the interview, and even though he seemed a little tired, he was clearly interested in my question and humored me. He has a fruity laugh and a vast presence, and is even more vibrant with the bright red patterned suit he “picked up in Senegal”. Known for his black-themed naturalistic paintings in a dense botanical environment or against the majestic background that is characteristic of old masters, he is a new member of the company’s own platinum card at American Express in Basel. I designed the version. He told Cut about his collaboration, early influences, and his thoughts on all its NFTs.
How was your time at Art Basel?
Well, I spent the morning watching art, so that was good. I don’t know — there are competing types of impact that drives me. Some of my favorite jobs may be a little surprising.
What are the amazing effects?
I was deeply influenced by Bas Jan Ader’s conceptual work. He spent most of his time in California before he died tragically in his twenties when he tried to cross the Atlantic Ocean by boat for the project he called. In search of a miracle. A few years later, I created something based on it. I think he pulled from the California side rather than the Dutch … yes, I think he came to America and lost his shit.
Have you ever seen a work of art that stopped you on your truck?
Very early on, there was a picture of Kerry James Marshall in the hairdresser, and the other The blue boy..I will say The blue boy It was like a portrait of this society. This child’s portrait is not an adult, but not a child. He is portrayed as this kind of future aristocrat. The clothes are over the top and the scenery is over the top. And what is expected to be played by someone in his social class is a sort of seat of power. But I didn’t think about it all those years ago. I thought it was technically drawn really well.
The blue boy It’s a work that does something similar to what you’re doing, but did you have any ideas for expression or social commentary at the time?
They weren’t — I knew nothing about history, about social influences, or the fact that much of that art was part of the rather dark power of our world. But I was also in love with the art. I fell in love with the artist’s ability to take colored paints and hairy sticks and remind me of something.
But what you noticed when you were rethinking these old masters and other Western works must have been a complicated journey.
Yes, there are many. Much of what I’m trying to do is travel around the world to randomly find the perfect stranger, draw their history into these paintings, and use it as part of the background in which they are painted. Is to do. I think that is the point. Not a famous person or a powerful person, but a person who cares about his business trying to get on the train or work. This random guy asks you to draw a picture and pose. The next thing we know is that they are in a museum somewhere. .. It’s more than just a beautiful painting, because I think some kind of magic gives meaning to the work.
That’s basically what you did for your next exhibition At the National Gallery, right?
Well, I found the model and took it to the Norwegian fjord. I had this idea in mind — just by looking at the painting — but none of us knew what we were doing. I jumped on an airplane and made it happen. I think part of it comes from seeing paintings from a naturalist school. Take a look at Caspar David Friedrich’s work and see how the mountains seem to approach God very quickly and are highly sexualized like some sort of resurrection. Patriarchy and a sense of dominance. And I thought it would be interesting to connect it with a group of people exploring this landscape with a sense of mystery and play. People who are embraced by the landscape and alienated.
You’ve been working on this, but you’re also in partnership with American Express. I can imagine you receiving thousands of invitations for a corporate partnership. Why did you choose to work for this company?
There are a lot of things in my inbox that don’t make sense. But the relationship with Harlem’s Studio Museum, their desire to engage with color artists, and the institution that literally built my career, that I can be proud of. That said, the museum is very ambitious, studded with golden picture frames … and the language I use, this ambitious language, is one of the ways Amex is located in popular culture. It is a department. It’s a little trickster move for me.
Kehinde Wiley’s American Express Platinum Card design.
Photo: Courtesy of Amex
Please tell me about the design of the card.
Well, it comes from a real painting, but it’s like disassembling a part of it. I wanted to feel like I could live together, but I might feel like I was sneaking up. And I also wanted to allow each person to react to it in their own way, so Oh, it’s a picture of Kehin Dewiley,Such, As you know, it reminds me of something, but I can’t put my finger on it.. A kind of intimacy, not a hit on the head.
Before I let go, I have one more question. Everything in Basel this year seems to be about NFTs and the Metaverse. What are NFTs and what do you think about them?
I’m away from all that. I can’t completely envelop my mind about some of the ownership and copyright issues around them, and what you’re actually buying, and if there’s any fix later. But it’s incredibly encouraging to see so many people excited about something that looks like it’s just invented. In other words, it seems that it was the practice of this great conceptual art that was invented out of nowhere. A few years later, somewhere in the American Studies Program, I’m sure they’re talking about how the whole world has become a kind of Warholian project.