Darryl Westly (b. 1989) is a mixed media painter whose practice is rooted in the juxtaposition of contrasting visual and conceptual content. His paintings create spaces of metaphor and complexity in which viewers are tasked with discovering their own meaning.
Informed by everyday environments and experiences, Westly paints scenes that are recognizable to most viewers, such as gardens, architectural landscapes, and portraits of human figures in what are often ordinary circumstances. Some of his images capture quotidian moments of mundanity or relaxation. Others carefully restate scenes and images from art history, deftly placing them in a contemporary context.
Within these accessible images, certain subversive elements challenge the viewer to look deeper into what Westly is portraying.
One such example is Westly’s vibrantly painted portrayal of the moment police officers first made contact with George Floyd, while Floyd was in the driver’s seat of his car. The softness of the color relationships and the semi-transparent luminosity of the paint lend the image an almost joyful atmosphere. The humanity of the figure is what is most readily apparent. The instantly recognizable facial features of Floyd, however, immediately bring to mind the horrific suffering this human is about to be put through.
In another painting from the same series, Westly portrays body cam footage of rioters attacking the US capital. Westly’s toy-like color palette and careful minimization of the forms makes this appalling moment seem almost like a moment of play.
Such portraits as these memorialize crucial historic moments for society, while also pointing to the complex but undeniable humanity of the participants. They question how we perceive each other, and how we allow ourselves to be portrayed.
Westly graduated from Pratt Institute as a sculpture major and holds a BFA from The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and the Arts. A former assistant to celebrity pop artist Jeff Koons, the Chicago-born painter, curator, and designer now lives and works in New York.