The Power of the Portraits of Kehinde Wiley at the William Morris Gallery

The Power of the Portraits of Kehinde Wiley at the William Morris Gallery
#Exhibitions

The power and the grace of the women of Dalston. The Yellow Wallpaper is the title of the personal exhibition of Kehinde Wiley at the William Morris Gallery, the first institution in the UK to feature the recent works of the African-American artist. The title is taken from the feminist text of 1892 by American novelist Charlotte Perkins Gilman, a sort of semi-autobiographical tale in which the protagonist finds herself shut up in a room because she is deemed to be hysterical and in desperate need of rest. The story delves into what limits on independence mean for a woman, a sentiment that is embodied in the yellow wallpaper of the room. “The Yellow Wallpaper is a work of literary fiction that explores the contours of femininity and insanity. This exhibition seeks to use the language of the decorative to reconcile blackness, gender, and a beautiful and terrible past,” explains Wiley. And so, in his portraits, there are characters that the artist met on the streets of Dalston, East London, which he depicts in all their power and strength, surrounded by vivaciously colourful flowers. Not surprisingly, there is also a connection between the artist and the gallery itself. Despite being raised in Los Angeles throughout the 1980s, Wiley, from an early age, was a fan of William Morris, British artist, textile designer and writer of the XIX Century to whom the space is dedicated. Over the last fifteen years, the American artist has been greatly inspired by Morris’ drawings and floral patterns in creating her works. The women in The Yellow Wallpaper, as is the case with her famed portrait of Barack Obama for which Wiley became famous worldwide, are set in a sort of wallpaper comprised of flowers and plants.
Vittoria Giusti - © 2020 ARTE.it for Bulgari Hotel London