Known for his vibrant reinterpretations of classical portraits featuring African-American men, New York-based painter Kehinde Wiley has turned the practice of portraiture on its head and in the process has taken the art world by storm.

The film Kehinde Wiley: An Economy of Grace follows the artist as he embarks on an exciting new project: a series of classical portraits of African-American women–something he’s never done before. The film documents the project as it unfolds, tracking Wiley’s process from concept to canvas, casting his models on the streets of New York and enlisting Riccardo Tisci of Givenchy to create couture gowns for each woman.

The film offers a tantalizing look at the intersection of art and fashion and an intimate portrait of one of this generation’s most intriguing and accomplished visionaries.


“Kehinde Wiley: An Economy of Grace” is an interesting documentary about a gay artist. Specifically, it’s about how his push to stop drawing portraits of African-American men. The push to make a change based on gender preference seems a little trite. An artist should be draw to what he or she wants regardless of orientation. Sure, it’s the artist’s choice in this matter, but the documentary really clarifies what led up to the push.

It’s neat to see Wiley change up his subject matter. However, his lighting and aesthetic choices left a lot to be desired. I didn’t get why he framed some of his models a certain way and too much of the documentary felt like a talking head piece for him. It’s a rare misstep for PBS, but nothing major. I would love to see Wiley get a follow-up in a larger work about homosexual artists. Well, modern homosexual artists that switch formats. We have to make that very specific.

The DVD comes with no special features. The A/V Quality is pretty strong for the release. The transfer is on par with the last couple of PBS documentaries. The same goes for the Dolby 2.0 surround track. In the end, I’d recommend a purchase to the artistic set.

RELEASE DATE: 10/07/2014

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