One of the most well-known, young contemporary artists in today’s world is Kehinde Wiley. Inspired by his painted portraits of urban youth met while visiting Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Lod, as well as Wiley’s signature use of deeply saturated color and detail, The Jewish Museum and agency, Our Man In Havana, elected to use a promotional effort that is very new to them. Overall Murals was chosen to hand paint the reproduction of Wiley’s art piece, entitled “Alios Itzhak”, onto a medium size wallscape in a high traffic location. After several weeks of location scouting, and back and forth feedback with the client, we found a variety of walls and ultimately narrowed it down to the choice spot at E. Houston and Mott Streets.
Unlike most outdoor signs, which are often designed to be as straight forward as possible, this artwork was complex – requiring nearly 80 different colors to be pre-mixed. Coincidentally scheduled to start during a major arts week in NYC, the artwork was executed within a week, on a hanging scaffold above bumper to bumper crosstown traffic and passersby made up of wandering gawkers and tourists.
The original painting was acquired for The Jewish Museum’s permanent collection and as such is one of the key pieces in the exhibition. It’s a nine-foot tall portrait of a young Jewish Ethiopian-Israeli man enveloped by an ornate background based on a traditional Jewish papercut, which is incidentally a part of the museum’s collection. The hand-carved wooden frame was customized for the painting with symbols of Jewish tradition: hands of a Kohen (priest) and the Lion of Judah, symbolizing blessing, power, and majesty.
The downtown wallscape’s success will be measured by the new audiences who visit the uptown museum for Kehinde Wiley’s show, beginning March 9th and ends July 29th. Fourteen of the paintings in the artist’s new series on view are being displayed in New York City for the first time.
Making of the Wallscape: