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.