You may not know Kadir Nelson by name, but you absolutely know his work. Whether you’ve ever picked up a copy of The New Yorker, or read your kids their favorite children’s book, or spent a Sunday at a local gallery and museum, the artist/illustrator has done it all. And he’s just getting started.
For his latest masterpiece, Nelson pays tribute to the Johnson family.
“I was thinking about how the fictional Johnson family would respond,” he said. “You’re kind of sitting back and observing with this knowing look: ‘I know what’s going on. I may say something sassy, but I’m just going to be over here minding my business, sipping my tea.’ And that’s what the Johnson family is doing.”
And what could have been a better mashup? Nelson portrayed the cast of the ABC series black-ish, whose seventh season premieres Oct. 21. Outside of billboard placements around L.A. (such as Hollywood and Highland, Sunset Boulevard and West 3rd Street), what makes this even more a momentous occasion, is his ability to capture political relevance of the times, along with the comedic shade that we all know and love.
Nelson is known for the strength of the human spirit, and for the Johnsons this was no different. “My goal is to really tell the human story,” says the L.A.-based artist. “To create artwork that inspires the better part of ourselves. To inspire us to become heroes in our own stories. Both individually and collectively.”
Series creator and executive producer Kenya Barris says, “Kadir captures everyone like he went inside them, and I love that about him. He draws a really fine line between caricature and a character’s signature. And I feel that’s [what] our show has become. It’s big, it’s bold and it’s over exaggerated. And it’s proud.”