Alim Smith is the explicit, personal and politically-conscious artist also known as “Yesterday Nite”. Alim has created a platform that has allowed him to connect with mass audiences through live exhibitions and social media, among various other mediums. In just the past year, Smith has created over 30 pieces and two original storybooks, which he authored and illustrated.
Alim’s initial introduction into the art world began with a fleeting love interest at an early age. Toward the end of elementary school, a girl with whom he was infatuated was accepted into Cab Calloway School of the Arts in Wilmington, compelling Smith to compose his own portfolio—comprised of pieces that ranged from a self-portrait to a painting of Garfield.
As he entered middle school at Cab Calloway, Alim developed a passion for art and discovered a sense of focus that pushed him to constantly create without distraction.
Smith sold his first piece in middle school—a portrait for his mom’s friend—and began painting portraits of cultural icons, a source of inspiration on which he would later expand. He met fellow artists Mike Silva and Terrance Vann, with whom he formed the art collective Paper Cut Kids.
It was also during this time that Smith came across what remains one of his primary sources of inspiration today: the works of renowned Dutch graphic artist M.C. Escher. In class one day, Smith found a teacher’s book of Escher’s work and was so enthralled by its contents that he stole it.
Alim notes that present day, Escher is still one of the only artists with whom he is concerned.
Smith continued creating art throughout his high school years at Cab Calloway, working with different tools to hone his skills.
By the time he graduated high school in 2008, Smith had been diagnosed with epilepsy and his mother had lost her job, prompting him to opt out of further pursuing art school. But he continued to create, right from his living room.
The following January, Smith and Silva drew a portrait of Barack Obama and went door to door around their neighborhood selling copies. Noting the positive response, they traveled to Washington, D.C. and sold the portrait to attendants at the inaugural address.
Smith says he is devoted to creating art that is heavily inspired by entertainment (primarily music and comedy), women and black culture.
Smith says the presence of black culture in his work serves as a form of self-expression and education.
Alim's most well known work, pays homage to black cultural icons that have influenced him in the series enititled “In Living Color.” He works to provide audiences with a unique perspective of the impact these figures have had on his generation.
Smith describes the spelling error in “Yesterday Nite” as the overarching motive behind his work, explaining that its unsettling nature is meant to be evocative.
“It’s wrong, but it feels good.”
It is the rhythm and life of his subjects, the dark humor embedded within each brushstroke, the rich cultural inspiration and the bold, often sensual nature of his work that distinguish Yesterday Nite.