Kadir Nelson, ‘Labor Strike’, 2011, RJD Gallery

About Kadir Nelson

Award-winning illustrator Kadir Nelson’s paintings are inspired by Old Master works, but depict heroic events from the history of African American culture. Nelson’s paintings are exquisitely detailed and highly representational, featuring historic moments or figures including civil rights leaders, abolitionists, athletes, and musicians. In the latter group especially, Nelson employs hagiographic techniques of religious and Old Master painting, such as luminescent, arched gold backgrounds. Individuals such as the hip-hop artist Questlove are treated akin to religious icons. “I feel that art’s highest function is that of a mirror, reflecting the innermost beauty and divinity of the human spirit; and is most effective when it calls the viewer to remember one’s highest self,” the artist has said. Nelson’s paintings and drawings have appeared on albums for Michael Jackson and Drake, U.S. postage stamps, and the cover of the New Yorker.

American, b. 1974, Washington, D.C., based in San Diego, California

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