American artist Kehinde Wiley’s new body of paintings and sculptures confronts the silence surrounding state-sanctioned violence against Black and Brown bodies through the visual language of the fallen figure. It expands on his 2008 series, Down — a group of large-scale portraits of young Black men inspired by Hans Holbein the Younger’s The Dead Christ in the Tomb (1521–1522). Wiley investigates the iconography of death and sacrifice in Western art, tracing it across religious, mythological, and historical subjects. In An Archeology of Silence, the senseless deaths of men and women around the world are transformed into a powerful elegy of resistance. The resulting paintings of figures struck down, wounded, or dead, referencing iconic paintings of mythical heroes, martyrs, and saints, offer a haunting meditation on the legacies of colonialism and systemic racism.
This exhibition is organized by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.
Additional support is provided by The Adamolekun Family, Delvecchio and Kelly Finley and Lisa Blackwell Properties.