The internet has turned memes, the seemingly innocuous photos of everyday people or celebrities, into their own coded language, like public inside jokes that are shared widely through Twitter, Facebook, and beyond.
Wilmington, Del.. artist Alim Smith has turned them into art.
Smith, known as Yesterdaynite to his 25.8 thousand Instagram followers, will show “MEMES,” a collection of 20 paintings based on some of the most popular internet memes, especially those prominent in black online culture. He’ll exhibit these works Friday at Wilmington’s Chris White Gallery.
There are stories behind his work, Smith says, and for “MEMES,” it’s about community, namely the one that shares these images as part of a shared internet language. Like the medium he plays with, the shows, Smith says, are intended to elicit laughter from those who come to the gallery.
Smith, 26, began sharing his interpretations of these memes — bold, colorful paintings that exaggerate and play with each image — during Black History Month to highlight how prevalent these images have become in black culture. He started by painting a version of “Crying Jordan,” a photo of basketball legend Michael Jordan, tears streaming down his face, as he gave a speech at his 2009 Basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Eight years later, this image of Jordan has been superimposed on different people to represent someone’s taking a loss. When the American Health Care Act didn’t reach a congressional vote, for instance, Paul Ryan was given the “Crying Jordan” treatment.