Man with his eyes closed laying on a grassy ground, in front of a colorful wallpaper backdrop

Kehinde Wiley, Femme Piquée par un Serpent (Mamadou Gueye), 2022. Oil on canvas, 131 7/8 x 300 in. (335 x 762 cm), framed: 143 5/16 x 311 x 3 15/16 in. (364 x 790 x 10 cm). EX1137.2. ©️ Kehinde Wiley. Courtesy of Galerie Templon, Paris. Photo: Ugo Carmeni

Kehinde Wiley: An Archaeology of Silence

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.

In the news

  • Massive, exquisitely rendered, and weighted with significance, the work proves both of the moment and transcendent of it.

    James Tarmy, Bloomberg ,
  • The works portray Black men and women as icons, and while vulnerable, the figures exude a sense of resilience and perseverance.

    Grace Ebert, COLOSSAL ,


This exhibition is organized by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Presenting Sponsor
Ford Foundation

Additional support is provided by The Adamolekun Family, Delvecchio and Kelly Finley and Lisa Blackwell Properties.

Also on view