The commanding figure in the center grabbed my attention and the swirling 17th century scroll design drew my eyes around the work. The pattern is especially useful in creating depth, as it weaves in and out of the foreground and background. The painting technique itself is flawless. The shine of the figure’s puffy coat and yellow tennis shoes in contrast with the soft fur lining of the coat’s hood make the painting texturally interesting.
As Andrea Karnes talked about her visit with the artist and about this particular painting, I was able to listen while looking at the piece in detail. She described Wiley’s method of choosing people off the street to pose in his paintings. What could be a better reflection of current culture than using figures that are immersed in it as the subject of art? Wiley himself is immersed in culture – fashion, music, and art – and makes his openings a complete cultural experience. The meshing of current culture with Baroque, Rococo and Romantic period portraiture creates a depth that would not occur in art that was simply a reflection of today’s styles and people. Issues of wealth, power and aristocracy are all brought to the surface in Colonel Platoff on his Charger.
I was so in awe that I did not want to go back upstairs, and I realized it was an opportunity that will not present itself very often. Starting Friday, everyone will have the chance to see Wiley’s powerful work in person here at the Modern. I, for one, can’t wait.