For the William Morris Gallery’s latest exhibition, the museum have turned to New York-based artist Kehinde Wiley. The artist is primarily known for his intriguing “street casting” selection process, and for the floral backgrounds that accompany many of his best works.
Wiley’s street casting technique involves randomly selecting sitters by strolling through an area and picking out strangers at random to help him with his work.
In the past, Wiley has allowed the sitters a degree of autonomy – by allowing them to choose how they want to be depicted. This has involved letting the would be sitter select a reproduction of a painting from a book, which Wiley then recreates with the sitter in it.
For the artist’s latest exhibition, Wiley has chosen a series of female subjects from Dalston in East London.
Kehinde Wiley: The Yellow Wallpaper places these everyday Londoners in front of a series of fabulously decorative floral schemes that recall the key motifs of William Morris.
The connection is not by chance. Wiley is a long time fan of the Victorian artist, having consistently sourced Morris’s prints during his near 20 year career.
A press release about the exhibition from the William Morris Gallery has described the new works as being set in “reimagined fields inspired by the Morris oeuvre,”. It is the clearest indication of the link between Morris and the emerging art of Wiley.
The collection has been inspired by American novelist Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s fictional text of the same name.
The work tells the story of a woman with mental health problems who has been denied the right to work because of her condition. The tale thus explores the ideas of female independence and autonomy.
“The Yellow Wallpaper is a work of literary fiction that explores the contours of femininity and insanity,” Wiley has said on the subject. “This exhibition seeks to use the language of the decorative to reconcile blackness, gender, and a beautiful and terrible past.”
If Wiley’s name seems familiar then perhaps it is because the artist recently became the first black artist to be chosen to paint a portrait of former US president Barack Obama.
Kehinde Wiley: The Yellow Wallpaper is currently closed due to the Coronavirus Crisis. More information about the exhibition can be found here.
For information on other great exhibitions in London, please click here.