Los Angeles native and New York based visual artist Kehinde Wiley‘s body of work entitled “Hip Hop Honors”, explores how African-American men are perceived throughout the U.S. and the world, and at the same time honors them through brilliant, lush,ornate larger-than-life portraits. The process of lifting his subjects straight from the hood — street gear and all — and transplanting them in the visual language of classical European portraiture, creates this beautiful mash-up of museum treasure and hip-hop urban culture. The artists would chose their own poses—taken from Wiley’s personal art book collection of Renaissance artists such as Tiepolo and Titian– that they felt best suited their characters.
Wiley’s art underscores that Hip-Hop, and the culture it spawns from, deserves to be exalted from merely a form of entertainment to a true art form given its true art-historical time frame like its precursors jazz, classical and rock. Love it! I saw Mr. Wiley’s work a few years ago at a Brooklyn Museum “First Saturday” event and was floored by the dynamism and scope of his images.