Blog Post

MJ -- by Kehinde Wiley & on fire

I'll admit it. I get off on death. Skeletons. X'd eyes.

No, not the phenomenon itself, but certainly the aftermath -- the way it makes you consider what comes ahead and what came before. It's not a kink but a forced form of contemplation.

I am pretty sure that the popular position of contemporary art insiders is that Kehinde Wiley's work is as crass as my sentiment. But I like it and, in this piece unveiled this past weekend at Miami Art Basel, Wiley makes it clear that crassness is the way much of our culture operates. This portrait, in its echos of Baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens classes up the crassness, while pointing out that our flaws are the same as they've ever been: pretense, greed, a put-on nobility that belies who we really are. (Note the MJ depicted in the painting bears little resemblance to the entertainer at the time of his death.)

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Let this serve as an excellent introduction to this video I've been meaning to share for quite some time. File it under THINGS YOU CAN'T FORGET BUT YOU'LL WANT TO:

UPDATED DECEMBER 31, 2009: More on Michael Jackson's own weird taste in painting from the Guardian in London which ran a story about the pieces Jackson himself commissioned from painter David Nordahl. i.e.

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Strange but true!

Alec Hanley Bemis's picture

Alec Hanley Bemis lives in Brooklyn, NY but spends a lot of time in California. He obtained his B.A. in History from Yale University. His writing has appeared in LA Weekly, The New York Times, The New Yorker, Spin, AsthmaticKitty.com, the Los Angeles Times, and many other publications. In 2001, he co-founded Brassland, a record label that documents the work of a growing community of musicians, including The National and Nico Muhly. Currently he continues to run Brassland, consults for the UK-based music company All Tomorrow's Parties, co-manages The Dirty Projectors, and acts as general manager at Cantaloupe Music. In the past, he has taught in New York University's graduate journalism program, produced projects for the new media-design firm, Funny Garbage, and written for Faith Popcorn's BrainReserve.