We just wrapped up our summer showroom at the Wythe Hotel. Over the course of our time there, we were inspired by the refined ambiance and creative energy of the space. A prominent feature of the pop-up was our floral backdrop for everyone to try on frames and take photos against. We heard over and over how it resembled Kehinde Wiley's portraits, which we happen to be big fan's of. If you're not familiar with his work, we suggest you read this article and check it out!
Blurring the boundaries between traditional and contemporary modes of representation, Wiley’s work has been a fascination to us as we seek to establish a modern craft. The New York-based artist has been acclaimed for his “heroic portraits which address the image and status of young African-American men in contemporary culture,” according to the Columbus Museum of Art.
He began his early career painting portraits of men in Harlem, and later expanded his view to depict urban black and brown men from various countries around the world. Remixing classical European art with black urban youth, he evoked a modern style that awakened complex social issues.
“Classical European paintings of noblemen, royalty and aristocrats,” Wiley writes on his website when asked where he typically finds his inspiration. “My goal was to be able to paint illusionistically and master the technical aspects, but then to be able to fertilize that with great ideas.”
Perhaps Barack and Michelle Obama saw an opportunity in choosing Wiley to paint their portraits as a way to make a point about contemporary life and culture. Removed from the oval office, the painting featured bright green vines in the background with buds of lilies, chrysanthemums and jasmine scattered about. The image was a striking departure from the staid presentation of the past 43 presidents.
“The way we think about a presidential portrait is one that is imbued with dignity from the outset. It is a vocabulary that has been fixed,” Wiley tells TIME. “The challenge here was to allow certain aspects of Barack Obama’s power and respectability to be a given so that we could move forward with a different type of narrative.”
The concept of a narrative stands at the core of our thinking behind the brand. Every frame we design embodies its own particular story, inspired by music, location, history and events of the city—you truly are wearing a piece of NYC. Our Wythe popup will be on for another week and we hope you can come and check out the space that continues to remind us why we love it here in New York.
Words: Aiko Austin