The Contemporary Jewish Museum (CJM) presents Kehinde Wiley | The World Stage: Israel, the first major exhibition in San Francisco of African American artist Kehinde Wiley—one of the most significant young artists working today. Wiley is known for vibrant, large-scale paintings of young, urban, T-shirt clad men of color he encounters on streets around the world and renders in the heroic poses typical of classical European portraiture.
The exhibition is part of the artist’s ambitious and multifaceted series, The World Stage, that has taken him to China, India, Brazil, and beyond, in an exploration of diasporas, identity, cultural hybridity, and power.
For The World Stage: Israel, Wiley scouted for subjects in the discos, malls, bars, and sporting venues of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Lod. The eighteen portraits in the exhibition depict men of diverse religions and ethnicities influenced by urban culture, who Wiley met in Israel—Ethiopian Jews and Jewish and Arab Israelis. He places his subjects against vivid, ornate backgrounds inspired by Jewish textiles and papercuts, and finishes each with a hand-carved wooden frame crowned with emblems borrowed from Jewish decorative tradition. As part of the exhibition, the CJM is including a selection of historical textiles and works on paper, like those from which Wiley draws inspiration, borrowed from The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life at UC Berkeley, and the Skirball Museum, Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles.