Pimped-out portraits

Posted on 17 Apr 2008 at 6:00pm
By Daniel A. Kusner – Life+Style Editor

Fort Worth Modern focuses on gay master Kehinde Wiley, hip-hop and baroque fusionist



Last week, when the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth sent Dallas Voice images of Kehinde Wiley’s work, we were immediately sucked in. His breathtaking and meticulous paintings of seemingly downtrodden African-Americans were framed in the post-colonial artistic tradition, like "The Chancellor Seguier on Horseback," pictured. Instead of old white dudes on horseback, stylish brothas in neon-green cargo pants and Nike shoes were mounted on stallions.

But there was something else: Amid the flamboyant colors and rococo decorative patterns, there’s was also a hint of homoeroticism.

Wiley’s MySpace page didn’t identify his sexual orientation, but his Top Friends included queer photographer David LaChapelle, transsexual superstar Amanda Lepore and gay electroclasher Casey Spooner. Since the museum was already closed, this reporter phoned Wiley’s studio in Los Angeles — to find out if the brilliant creator behind these canvases was gay. His public relations agent said Wiley was in China for the next few weeks. She also explained that she herself was openly lesbian but didn’t know how Wiley chose to answer that question — which had been posed before. She never called back to confirm nor deny.

The next morning, however, the guessing game was put to rest. The museum confirmed Wiley was gay, and a Google search dug up that in 2006, Kehinde Wiley made Out magazine’s annual "Out 100" honor list.

On Friday, Wiley was supposed to visit Fort Worth as the museum opened his "FOCUS" exhibit. Unfortunately, he had to cancel his Cowtown appearance (which was also supposed to include a performance by the Trimble Tech High School marching band — in a museum gallery!)

In February, Elton John bought Wiley’s "Dead Soldier" painting for $120,000. And Wiley is currently trying to collaborate on a project with Michael Jackson. But it’s easy to understand how a brilliant young artist like Wiley wouldn’t want his work to be strictly pigeonholed in a gay milieu — especially since his paintings obviously speak to a huge audience.

— Daniel A. Kusner



YOU BETTA RECOGNIZE!
"FOCUS: Kehinde Wiley" on display April 20-May 25 at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, 3200 Darnell St. Tickets $10. Museum is free on Wednesdays and the first Sunday of every month. 817-738-9215. TheModern.org

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 18, 2008.

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