Kehinde Wiley's painting “Sleep” is from 2008 and the technique is oil on canvas with the dimensions being 335.3 x 762 cm. The main figure in the painting is an African American and he occupies the central part of the painting which is of enormous measures. The man’s appearance is magnificent and his body is athletic with all his muscles being exposed to the public. His genitals are covered with a white cloth and he is serene and divine. The young man is only partially lying on a bed covered with a white sheet while his legs are placed on a wooden box. His left arm is hanging loose and his right arm rests on his stomach. There is a floral print around him which makes the scene heavenly. The man is in perfect shape and is god-like which makes him look authoritative.
The line is linear and the brush strokes are not easy to identify, while the form seems to be three-dimensional. The shape follows the body of the man and there is a pattern in the depiction of the flowers. The direction of the lines is horizontal which suggests stability and calmness. The size of the body is great because the whole painting is big. The texture is smooth and glossy and this makes the painting look like a photograph at first glance. The colors have earthy tones which makes the painting calming to look at. When it comes to value, there is both lightness and darkness of color. The balance is achieved because of the body being in the central position. There is also gradation of color because lighter colors are surrounding the body while the body is of a darker color. There is repetition which can be seen in the floral print as all the flowers are the same. The contrast is set between the body and its surroundings and there is harmony which is achieved through balance and complementary colors. Dominance in the painting is in the central part which is occupied by the body of the black man. There is unity in this painting because all the elements are in harmony and the painting seems to be complete.
This painting has a deep meaning and it conveys the message about the importance of human body. There is also a connection between mind and body and this man seems to be in a harmonious state of existence. He looks like an ancient god who is resting and the style resembles the style of the Old Masters. The black man seems to have come from heaven and he might be going back to heaven to rest. The man resembles gods from mount Olympus from ancient Greek mythology. “Hovering in rococo cloud palaces, these sweet youths in their do-rags seem at once ironic and sublime; they inhabit the heavens as comfortably as angels” (Yaeger, 2007, p. 433).
The overall strength of the work is that the man who is obviously a human being and who is black, is represented as a dominant being. He is magnificent and powerful and there is his remarkable beauty is fascinating. The artist was trying to show that men are god-like creatures and the man in the painting is a good example of that. What the artist did what out of the box because the man is black while paintings of similar content usually depict white men. The idea is original and the painting is very realistic which makes this work of art a great success.
Wiley, K. (Artist). (2008). Sleep. [Image of painting]. Miami, Florida; Rubell Family Collection. Retrieved from https://rfc.museum/30a-kehinde-wiley
Yaeger, P. (2007). Editor's Column: The Polyphony Issue. PMLA, 122(2), 433-448.