Kehinde Wiley on Alios Itzhak Read More
On the occasion of Black History Month, listen to artist Kehinde Wiley describe his portrait of a young Ethiopian Jewish man on view now in Scenes from the Collection at the Jewish Museum.
“My obsession and passion is within the field of Western European easel painting,” says American artist Kehinde Wiley. For his global project The World Stage, Wiley traveled the world to insert people of color into the Western tradition of portraiture, echoing the classic poses of noblemen and leaders in commissioned portraits.
First exhibited at the Jewish Museum for the artist’s solo exhibition in 2012, his series The World Stage: Israel features a suite of vibrant, large-scale portraits of young Israeli men from diverse backgrounds — Ethiopian Israeli Jews, native-born Israeli Jews, and Muslim Arab Israelis. Each canvas is embedded with a unique pattern influenced by Jewish ritual objects.
On view now in Scenes from the Collection, Alios Itzhak, a portrait of a young man of Ethiopian origin, stands proudly before a background inspired by a cut-out nineteenth-century Ukrainian mizrah, also part of the Jewish Museum collection. With The World Stage, Wiley both globalizes the tradition of portraiture, and claims a prominent space within it for people of color.
Listen to Kehinde Wiley describe his portrait of Alios Itzhak:https://medium.com/media/c4f8fece678c991b9a57eb0a48fcdbc8/href
Alios Itzhak comes from a series of paintings called “The World Stage.” In “The World Stage,” I travel globally to stop young people in the streets and asked them to pose for me. In this particular case, I went to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. I remember running into young Ethiopian Jews and young emcees who wanted to talk about contemporary life in Israel, but through the rubric of a very African-American form.
They created hip-hop music, they created art, they created their own statement about what it felt like to be alive in Israel in the 21st century. I don’t think many knew that this would be a museum portrait as such — with the capital ‘M’ involved. I think that we were dealing with a type of self-presentation that was perceived as not necessarily under scrutiny. For those reasons, I think what we have here is a look into what it feels like to be young and vital in contemporary Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
— Kehinde Wiley
See Kehinde Wiley’s Alios Itzhak (The World Stage: Israel) on view now in Scenes from the Collection at the Jewish Museum. Explore more works of art honoring Black History Month online at TheJewishMuseum.org/Collection.