Arcmanoro Niles, Figurative Painter and American Art’s Next Heavyweight

I’m really excited about the talent of this artist.
Arcmanoro Niles is a D.C. born and Brooklyn based artist. He is represented by Gallery Lehmann Maupin.

I saw his paintings in person recently for the first time, and I was initially very struck by all the pink and the glitter canvassing every painting. Once my eyes adjusted to this, time had given way to a deep feeling of appreciation for the beauty he redefined and created.

His portraits are invitation.

He explores identity, the things we hold in our private space (people, home, hidden desires) and memory in ways that come out as quite elegant, dignified, intimate, and slightly Johnny Bravo throwback emoji.

“A lot of my references come from old family photos or pictures I take myself with my cell phone or a point or shoot camera. I’m always thinking about how the painting will come out to the viewer so I use quite a bit of reflective paints and shiny materials like glitter. But I think that, at the end of the day, I am a painter who is interested in color and stories that talk about who we are. Little moments that give us a glimpse into what life feels like.” – Arcmanoro Niles

In every painting is included a Seeker, little spindly– some with mischievous bent– characters painted in dark color close to the canvas’ margins.

The Seeker signifies a human desire of the lesser kind. These symbolisms juxtaposed with the virtuous renderings of the people in his paintings invites the viewer to look deeper.

Some things I immediately took away from the paintings of Arcmanoro Nile’s style:

Despite the intimacy of the home or his subjects’ state of dress, Niles paints each with a grace and regalness– similar to how Kehinde Wiley paints the character of his subjects.

He’s a glitter guy.

He paints skin so beautifully: The color of the skin of the people in his life he painted was absolutely striking. What from afar would appear as a light brown skin tone, is skin painted on with a multitude of colors. And the result glistened.

How did Arcmanoro Niles become an artist?

As a kid, he would always be drawing, and this eventually took him to an art high school, Duke Ellington— all was natural progression. He’d then find himself watching a movie of Caravaggio one day in class which would be a source of inspiration for how he would continue on to paint his subjects and treated light.

Influence and process behind Arcmanoro Niles’ art

He’s really interested in color and the color of skin. In a former lecture, Niles says even the colors in the backgrounds of his paintings are made with consideration for making the skin look better. Having recently graduated undergraduate and graduate art school, he references his experience at art school; in the things they were studying, he didn’t see any African Americans in paintings nor were Black artists, people like him, included in studies. That component is a source of meaning for him as an active artist.

Coupled with his desire to highlight African Americans and his heritage more and naturally, the whole interest behind his practice is beautiful.

He is fascinated by color and is interested in the oppositional qualities of color, and often asks himself how to not lose any color in the painting he is rendering.

On indirect painting

“when you have two colors, if you have the orange, and then I put red on top of that, and then if I go over the red with a yellow thinly, it kind of creates a third color. But if I do that with three colors and they are all very saturated, then it will keep on making more colors, and that’s sort of what gives it [the painting] the glow.”

Arcmanoro had his first solo show on the West Coast at the UTA Artist Space. I feel like it’s only a matter of time before Niles has his own show at the MoMA, Whitney, or New Museum.

I’m really excited for that day.


Hey Tomorrow, Do You Have Some Room For Me: Failure Is A Part Of Being Alive runs through August 28, 2021 at Lehmann Maupin Gallery, 536 West 22nd St., NY, NY

To follow his Instagram and journey, click here.

To see art that spans the breadth of his youth (from his high school years to — now) you can get glimpses of them here.

Examining Myself Today a la Style de David Evans and Bill Burnett’s Designing Your Life

Health:
Physically, I’m in pretty good shape. I’ve been trying to work out almost every other day, and it really helps me wash out the negativity and the mind wormholes I get into pretty often as someone with a head that has trouble not thinking. While being in shape is important, the need to exercise for me I feel comes mostly from the endorphins and relaxation (rewards!) I feel from getting an engaging workout in and having it demand all my physical and mental attention. It quiets my thoughts, and I really love that.
Food wise, I haven’t been eating healthily and I need to change that. I’m pretty tired from work most of the time, so I need to make sure I’m not eating foods that support lethargy or a weakening of the immune system.
I’m also struggling a lot with memory. Short term and some long term memories are really joggy and it’s getting concerning. At first I thought it was because I’m all over the place, and I’m just someone who needs to implement check lists, plan and such in very concrete, written ways. But I’m beginning to think it’s not just that. I keep forgetting things at an alarming frequency. Something to address and commit to going to a doctor for before it gets worse.
Physically also, I’ve been exploiting my youth by running on a bad foot for a while. The fractures keep recurring, the pain never goes away, and yet I’m still running. A conversation with a physical therapist last weekend really woke me up because she warned me that while my body is giving me all it’s got now, it won’t ever do that as I age, and that this could quadruple into a really serious issue if I’m not proactive and don’t make the decision to stop running as I’ve avoided so now. It hurts my young self: my passion and love for the rush of BREEZE I feel when running, experiencing nature at that kind of speed, and my pride as a 26 year old woman, but I need to work on being okay with stopping.
Work:
Work is pretty intense. I’m realizing more and more in hindsight that there were and are parts that are more intense and hard for me, as I’m still struggling a bit with resisting the unbalance that comes with being entrepreneurial. I kept fighting it. and I’m starting to come to terms with the fact that I’m supposed to be sitting alongside the minion that is crazy startup life and embracing it. Not all of it, but some of it. And that my understanding and personal definition of what it means to be “balanced” is a little rigid and maybe open to revision. It’s crazy hilarious and exasperating just how much I’m resisting the startup life. It’s perhaps very foolish of me. A developing thought, and not a belief yet, but sharing nonetheless. Business this early stage is also not going well at any point in time, and as a small company it’s hard to take the gains and losses of the company at arm’s length. Everything hits me.
I need to mentally be there, in that everything I am doing is understood [by me] that it was the best I could do at every given moment, with the best interests in mind and that I need to be better at bouncing back, being more openminded, and adapting even more so when the variables and circumstance change around me.
In terms of network and and professional life, things are going really great. I’m coming into my own as a professional and as an individual who is really curious, has a lot of things to say and craves deep connection. I’m continuously building upon and defining this multi-faceted, yet-to-be-determined creature that is my public self. I’ve been freelance modeling, started lecturing as a guest lecturer at NYU, consulted a few consumer brands, and advocating for mental health & my main work, ATEM. Life is very good on that front, and it’s amazing being part of a new tribe that’s full of many beautiful, bright, and well-meaning people, and thick in with the entrepreneurial, founder, business-women & men community.
Love:
The love is great. Not without some bumps and minefields thrown onto the plane I live in, but man is it great:
My love for God is amazing right now and rising.
My family, as colorful as our dynamics are, is trending up in the most beautiful, and wholesome ways I’ve never seen!
My romantic experiences, while colorful [in part to my overthinking myself], have been wonderful in their own ways, and I’m growing and learning more about myself: exploring the good sides, examining the needing improvement sides, and am interfacing and growing to know, see and share in the promise of love with someone that I believe and am grateful I have such a natural connection to.
Friendships are great. I’ve really seen this arena defining itself in the past 2 years and friendships are sifting and solidifying in their places as I feel they should be. There is the constant influx of new and old characters of course, and navigating that and my changing feelings and our changing positions is sometimes verging on the disorienting (hello people pleaser Susan, but short on time and life Susan), but this sphere’s developed into something that’s very much a solid ecosystem of peoples that are very loving and awesome and just solid, solid, lovable, trustworthy friends.
Play:
Play for me from experience (and I only have twenty-some years of this thing, experience) is doing or seeing something very creative or emotionally provocative.
That usually means for me seeing art, going to see an opera, being in some very high-nature habitat, maybe going horse riding? (it’s on my bucket list, I’ve never done it!!).
Reading is for certain for pleasure, but most recently I’ve been reading a lot to learn with the intention of helping myself develop as a professional and in more public facing contexts, and I’ve not honestly been allowing myself to pick up much reading for sheer “valueless” (whatever that means) pleasure . Learning though is a direct pleasure channel for me, so this is a little murky. I love to read to learn. But I suppose the topics I would be reading on would slightly change if I was only reading this past season for sheer pleasure. I would be less focused [by my nature] in my choice of subject matter, and would be reading anything from surfing, to horseriding, to vinoculture, to wines in Paso Robles, to the history of an art I have my eyes newly fixed on, to reading on photography, to reading on sculpture making, to reading all the books I have in my personal reading to do list, and rereading Jane Austen on replay over, and over, and over again.
As Bill Burnett and Dave Evans define it in Designing Your Life, play eliminates any and all consideration of “work” that is colored even with a drop of something that is not pure joy:
“Play is all about joy. If you observe children at play, you will see the type of play we are talking about. Play is any activity that brings you joy when you do it. It can certainly include organized activity or competition or productive endeavors, but when those things are done, “for the joy of it” they are play. When an activity is done to win, to advance, to achieve– even if it’s fun to do so– it’s not play. It may be a wonderful thing, but it’s still not play. The question here is what brings you joy purely in the doing.”
While work has required me to pull down on the play, I’ve managed to stay really committed to a really concentrated number of “play” activities I consider my top most priorities and most consistent sources for sheer Susan joy: reading, nature, and art 🙂
In an ideal world, I’d like to have even more leisure to explore more and see if other play activities would actually bring me more pleasure, but unfortunately exploration does require new commitment and more time allocated to things that are uncertain and at best to be determined in their joy-value adds in my life.  At least for now 🙂 And that’s okay.