Art 3 – Portraits – Due 9/23

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Look at both the video and web article below.

Stop animation “speed” drawing by Jonathon Linton:

Hyper realist portraits by Kehinde Wiley:  world-us-canada-19454025

In your comments, consider:

Why does Wiley re-contextualize the people in his portraits? How and why does Wiley incorporate art history into his art?

Explain the difference between a portrait that just captures a person’s likeness (like Linton’s) and one which makes a point about class, ethnicity, contemporary culture, or social interaction (like Wiley’s).

What type of portrait do you prefer?

Are there any artists that might influence you in making your self portrait or a background that you might add?

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7 responses »

  1. When Wiley paints a portrait, he shows his subject various books on historical portraiture. The subject then imagines himself in the context of one of those portraits and chooses the position and context he would like to be painted in. As a result, the portraits are not renderings of passive bodies or faces. Instead the process is more interactive. By re-contexualizing the people in his Portraits, Wiley’s aim is not to create a “grand political narrative” but to bring life’s beautiful moments to the surface. He also draws attention to the relationship between ethnicity and positions of power. Portraits that simply capture a person’s likeness are not placed within a specific context. The surrounding environment is therefore created within the imagination of the viewer and the viewer focuses more on the personality and expression of the person. When portraits are placed within a specific context, however, the moment at the which the painting was created and the message it is trying to convey also becomes an important aspect of the composition. I like both types of portraiture. Portraits that simply capture a likeness are more mysterious because the only clues the viewer has about where the subject is or what he/she might be like are gathered from the facial expression. Portraits that are painted within a specific context are often meaningful, comical, or both and might provoke greater thought about culture, ethics, and politics than a simple likeness would.

    • You draw clear contrasts between the two. I also enjoy both. Sometimes I have an appetite for a lot of social commentary by the artist through the choices of context and sometimes I just delight in the aesthetics of a well-rendered portrait.

  2. Having grown up in Los Angeles as a black male, I get the sense that he saw and experienced many things regarding the differences between black people and whites. Because of this, I hypothisize that he began using his technique as a way to shed a new light on the way African Americans, especially young males, are preceived. As he says, “By using subjects who come from underserved communities, creating a global conversation around who has power, who deserves to be seen in the great museums throughout the world, I don’t think I’m throwing any systems…”I think I’m simply pointing to moments of beauty, moments I definitely recognise as being worthy of being celebrated.” He studied classical art while attending art school so he is very familiar with art history. He incorporates his knowledge by having his subjects pose in classical portraiture poses. By combining classical poses with underserved people, he is breaking all preconceived ideas and allowing these, otherwise overlooked people, to be put in the spotlight where they will be “celebrated” and included. A portrait like Wiley’s is experimental that those like Linton’s. I love Lintons becuase it’s so pure and beautiful and realistic, but I am more drawn to Wiley’s simply because it has social commentary. It shows amazing talent but goes further by using real people and the past. It invites a deeper conversation to just the asthetic apeal. I really like Linton’s because it showed us how he created it.

    • Your point is well developed about the social importance of Wiley’s re-contextualizing of his subjects. His work shows the power an artist can have to address social issues. Even though he admits he is not “throwing any systems”, it still becomes a step on the path of social change by encouraging a discussion about the status quo and the contemplation of other possibilities.

  3. What Wiley is able to accomplish through his work is give a story AND a subject. The viewer is able to understand more about the work than the technique person. His works have a lot of personality and have a lot to say. What his view is is clear based on the context he puts his subjects in and it indicates a larger problem that his subjects are implicated in. Rather than focusing on the subject, Wiley’s portraits create a pensive environment so that the viewer can think about what Wiley is expressing.
    Wiley and Linton’s portraits contrast in the stories they tell. Wiley’s are about a larger picture and concept rather than just capturing someone’s likeness. Linton’s, on the other hand, are about capturing how a person looks and feels. I think that both are valid forms of portraiture. I’m a fan of somewhere in between. I like stylized portraits that capture a person’s personality and who they are, but I don’t know that I would personally create works with the kind of political and social implications that Wiley’s have.

    • Wiley’s work grows out of his interests and experiences in growing up so the re-contextualizing has a personal impetus. But he does take it into a larger context. Sometimes stories can come out of ideas that are very familiar and everyday; that have their roots in personal experience and even in the small everyday events, the “personal is political.”

  4. What Wiley wants to show in his artworks is more about those “quiet moments of beauty in the world” rather than just a portrait. He doesn’t use famous, upper-class people as his models, instead he chose strangers that he met in the street. In his portraits, Wiley re-contenxtualizes the background to pop out the characters, bring them hope and light, and to transpose a long-oppressed people into a social system that used to be dominated mostly by the white upper-classes. A portrait that just captures a person’s likeness is more about realism and to draw what you see, but portraits like Wiley’s are more about combining the reality with his feeling and understanding about the character he’s observing. To achieve portraits that make a point about people’s cultural and social background, which require more effort on converting literature and facts into visual art. I prefer Wiley’s portraits although Linton’s are also pretty amazing, but Wiley’s portraits show people more besides art skills, they’re more thoughtful. And that’s what I’m looking for.

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