Edited by Claudia Schmuckli
“That is the archaeology I am unearthing: the specter of police violence and state control over the bodies of young Black and brown people all over the world.” –Kehinde Wiley
Kehinde Wiley: An Archaeology of Silence features a new body of paintings and sculptures by American artist Kehinde Wiley confronting the legacies of colonialism through the visual language of the fallen figure. It expands on a subject the artist first explored in his 2008 series Down—a group of large-scale portraits of young Black men inspired by Wiley’s encounter with Hans Holbein the Younger’s The Dead Christ in the Tomb(1521–22) at the Kunstmuseum Basel. Holbein’s painting triggered an ongoing investigation into the iconography of death and sacrifice in Western art that Wiley traced across religious, mythological and historical subjects. An Archaeology of Silence extends these considerations to include men and women around the world whose senseless deaths, often unacknowledged or silenced, are transformed into a powerful elegy of global resistance against state-sanctioned violence. The resulting paintings of Black bodies struck down, wounded or dead, all referencing iconic historical paintings of slain heroes, martyrs or saints, offer a haunting meditation on the violence against Black and brown bodies through the lens of European art history.
Kehinde Wiley (born 1977) is a world-renowned visual artist. Working in the mediums of painting, sculpture and video, Wiley is best known for his vibrant portrayals of contemporary African American and African-diasporic individuals that subvert the hierarchies and conventions of European and American portraiture. Wiley became the first African American artist to paint an official US Presidential portrait for former US President Barack Obama. Wiley has held solo exhibitions throughout the United States and internationally, and his works are included in the collections of over 40 public institutions worldwide. He lives and works in Beijing, Dakar and New York.