Kehinde Wiley’s paintings often blur the boundaries between traditional and contemporary modes of representation. Rendered in a realistic mode–while making references to specific Old Master paintings–Wiley creates a fusion of period styles, ranging from French Rococo, Islamic architecture and West African textile design to urban hip hop and the “Sea Foam Green” of a Martha Stewart Interiors color swatch. Wiley’s slightly larger than life size figures are depicted in a heroic manner, as their poses connote power and spiritual awakening. Wiley’s portrayal of masculinity is filtered through these poses of power and spirituality.

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Twas once a young lad named Pete,

who fancied the girl down the street.

And though he was shy,

he did catch her eye.

Oh! how life can be sweet.

"But wait," the lady suggested.

"Although I am surely tempted;

before we undress,

I think it’d be best

if you and I go get tested.”

And being…