Obamas' official portraits revealed at the Smithsonian

Official portraits of Barack and Michelle Obama

Barack Obama by Kehinde Wiley / Oil on canvas, 2018 / National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

The article itself details Obama portrait artist Kehinde Wiley's past use of what the New York Times has described as "rich textile or wallpaper backgrounds whose patterns he has likened to abstractions of sperm". The works show the honor, dignity, and achievement of the subjects, though in distinctly different ways. Mr. Wiley told our art reporter Robin Pogrebin that he and Mr. Obama "decided very quickly that we were just going to strike out a path of our own". Many of his works, which engage with hip-hop culture, have a distinct homoerotic quality as well. Wiley depicted the former president sitting in a chair with a wall of greenery behind him. Established artists don't need commissions; Mrs. Obama's selection of Sherald, however, will have a major impact on her career right when she needs it.

Wiley is known for painting young African-American men in bright, bold, regal settings that are influenced by art history.

Wiley also now becomes the first black artist to paint a presidential portrait for the National Portrait Gallery, which displays the portrait of each president. But he didn't stop with making up a portrait for Obama.

Inside of the exhibit focusing on America's Presidents, you will find George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and a lot of other portraits of presidents that look somewhat the same. "These works upend the notion that there are worlds where African Americans belong and worlds where we don't".

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It's also been revealed that the backdrop on the 44th president's portrait - by artist Kehinde Wiley - is filled with symbolism of his upbringing.

A decade later we can see how tough that act was to follow - for a president, for a painter and for a voting public.

Oh, and pockets. Yes, even a year after her departure, the former first lady is still an inspiration. The first lady inhabits a world of calm, clarity and Wedgwood-hued enlightenment, while the president is seen untethered against a screen of leaves and flowers, with occasional glimpses into an unknown dark space beyond. The former first lady had reminded him, he said, that he was not finished, and that he needed to thank his mother.

It's easy to forget the historical importance of Monday's unveiling. Of course, we all know Biden is the intellect of the Democratic Party.

The Obamas were on hand for the unveiling of their official portraits for the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery, and their uniqueness in comparison to every portrait that came before them captured social media by storm. Now that they have left office, now that their fundamental decency is in high relief by contrast with the new political order, memory is refreshed.

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