Kehinde Wiley Asks: ‘What Does an Israeli Even Look Like?’

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Following projects in China, Brazil, Africa, and India, artist extraordinaire Kehinde Wiley takes his “hip-hop meets Old Masters” style on the road again to present The World Stage: Israel at Roberts & Tilton, where the show of 15 paintings on canvas and paper opened on Saturday and remains on view through May 28. Wiley and his scouts found young, handsome European and Ethiopian Jews and Arab Israelis at malls, bars, nightclubs, and sporting events in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and had them to pose for photographs that were later transformed into hyperrealistic paintings of optimistic youth in a conflicted country.

“My driving question was how do we take a nation with this level of intensity with regards to how we look at it, and go beyond the media stereotypes about national identity,” he explained to Los Angeles Times writer Jori Finkel. “I don’t really think about myself as a young gay black American, nor do I interface with my Brazilian or Mexican or Jewish friends that way, but rather we’re co-evolving in this experiment that happens to be a nation on the leading edge of these types of combinations. And in a very real way you see this happening specifically and urgently on the streets of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. What does an Israeli even look like? There are Arab Israelis, there are Ethiopian Jews — the Falasha, Ashkenazi Jews from every part of Eastern and Western Europe. So there is this immense diversity.”

Click through a gallery of images from the exhibition and view videos of the installation at Roberts & Tilton and the photo sessions in Israel below.

Kehinde Wiley, Shmuel Yosef (The World Stage: Israel), 2011. Oil on canvas, 45 x 36 in (114.3 x 91.4 cm), Courtesy of Roberts & Tilton, Culver City, CA

Kehinde Wiley, Abed Al Ashe and Chaled El Awari (The World Stage: Israel), 2011. Oil and enamel on canvas, 95.937 x 84 in (243.7 x 213.4 cm), Courtesy of Roberts & Tilton, Culver City, CA

Kehinde Wiley, Benediter Brkou (The World Stage: Israel), 2011. Oil and gold and silver enamel on canvas, 95.75 x 71.75 in (243.2 x 182.2 cm), Courtesy of Roberts & Tilton, Culver City, CA

Kehinde Wiley, Likunt Daniel Ailin (The World Stage: Israel), 2011. Oil wash on paper, 40 x 29 in (101.6 x 73.7 cm), Courtesy of Roberts & Tilton, Culver City, CA

Kehinde Wiley, Leviathan Zodiac (The World Stage: Israel), 2011. Oil and gold enamel on canvas, 95.75 x 71.75 in (243.2 x 182.2 cm), Courtesy of Roberts & Tilton, Culver City, CA

Kehinde Wiley, Mahmud Abu Razak (The World Stage: Israel), 2011. Oil on canvas, 72 x 60.125 in (182.9 x 152.7 cm), Courtesy of Roberts & Tilton, Culver City, CA

Kehinde Wiley, Mukat Brhan (The World Stage: Israel), 2011. Oil and gold enamel on canvas, 45 x 36 in. (114.3 x 91.4 cm), Courtesy of Roberts & Tilton, Culver City, CA

Kehinde Wiley, Simahue Walla (The World Stage: Israel), 2011. Oil wash on paper, 40 x 29 in (101.6 x 73.7 cm), Courtesy of Roberts & Tilton, Culver City, CA

Kehinde Wiley, Kalkidan Mashasha (The World Stage: Israel), 2011. Oil and gold enamel on canvas, 45 x 36 in (114.3 x 91.4 cm), Courtesy of Roberts & Tilton, Culver City, CA

Kehinde Wiley, Chamza El Essawi (The World Stage: Israel), 2011. Oil and gold enamel on canvas, 72 x 60.125 in (182.9 x 152.7 cm), Courtesy of Roberts & Tilton, Culver City, CA

Kehinde Wiley, Mizrath/Shiviti (The World Stage: Israel), 2011. Oil on canvas, 72 x 59.937 in (182.9 x 152.2 cm), Courtesy of Roberts & Tilton, Culver City, CA

Kehinde Wiley, Kalkidan Mashasha (The World Stage: Israel), 2011. Oil wash on paper, 40 x 29 in (101.6 x 73.7 cm), Courtesy of Roberts & Tilton, Culver City, CA

Kehinde Wiley, Alios Itzhak (The World Stage: Israel), 2011. Oil and enamel on canvas, 95.937 x 72 in (243.7 x 182.9 cm), Courtesy of Roberts & Tilton, Culver City, CA

Kehinde Wiley, Solomon Mashash (The World Stage: Israel), 2011. Oil and gold enamel on canvas, 72 x 60.125 in (182.9 x 152.7 cm), Courtesy of Roberts & Tilton, Culver City, CA

Kehinde Wiley, Mukat Brhan (The World Stage: Israel), 2011. Oil wash on paper, 38 x 29 in (96.5 x 73.7 cm), Courtesy of Roberts & Tilton, Culver City, CA