Bay Area professor recalls former student, Obama portrait artist as 'brilliant'

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The National Portrait Gallery is unveiling portraits of former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama. (KGO-TV)

Former President Barack Obama's portrait was unveiled today, joining his predecessors in the traditional portrait gallery. "How about that? it's pretty sharp," was Mr. Obama's reaction.

RELATED: National Portrait Gallery unveils Obama portraits

It looks nothing like others in the collection. The nation's first African American President chose the first Black artist, Kehinde Wiley.

Dewey Crumpler calls the portrait "brilliant" and says "It doesn't look like history. It looks like now."

Crumpler is an associate professor of painting at the San Francisco Art Institute, He taught Wiley back in the 90's and remembers him as an extraordinary student. "A student that is driven., a student that is always moving through the vision of intellect and ability."

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Wiley is known for painting contemporary subjects in the old master's style. One at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, titled Alexander the Great, was also at MOAD, the San Francisco Museum of the African Diaspora.

Michelle Obama's portrait was done by Amy Sherald, also African American -- a milestone according to the director of exhibitions at MOAD. Emily Kuhlmann said, "To really celebrate the cultural contributions of African Americans in the arts and our society, in general, is really significant."

The portraits are receiving mixed reviews on social media -- some saying they don't look presidential, but supporters say its evolving art that moves beyond a Euro-centric tradition. The Obama's have nothing but praise.

Click here for a look back at recent stories about Barack Obama.

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politicsmichelle obamabarack obamapaintingsmithsonianu.s. & worldartpresident barack obamathe artsWashington DC
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