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Meet the Artist Who’s Giving Viral Memes Like Crying Jordan the Fine Art Treatment

2 minute read

Memes, those viral bastions of internet culture, are more than just clicks, likes and jokes — they can function as commentary on the times and in some cases, as veritable cultural touchstones. In fact, in the age of social media, a picture of a crying Michael Jordan can say more than a thousand words.

So it should come as no surprise that memes are now getting the fine art treatment, thanks to an artist named Alim Smith, whose known to his more than 18,000 Instagram followers as @yesterdaynite. Smith’s latest series of paintings feature the most iconic memes of recent history (although all memes probably fall within the recent history range) as seen through what he describes as his “Afro surrealist” style.

Through Smith’s interpretation, everything from the Crying Jordan meme to the Confused Nick “Swaggy P” Young meme becomes an abstract masterpiece. Smith told TIME that he was inspired by the ways that visual culture and social media connect millions everyday.

“I was inspired to paint memes as they, by themselves, represent a powerful form of art,” he said. “Powerful, because they are a connector for millions who use the internet each and every day. [It’s] a visual representation of contemporary culture, and specifically black culture, as it exists in social media.”

See Smith’s evocative meme art below.

“Crying Jordan” gets the fine art treatment.

Confused Nick Young is now Surrealist Nick Young.

Keisha Johnson, "Confused Face Girl," was depicted against a beautiful sunset.

Even Uncle Denzel got the Alim Smith transformation.

A post shared by ALIM SMITH (@yesterdaynite) on Mar 11, 2017 at 11:58am PST

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Write to Cady Lang at cady.lang@timemagazine.com