Kyng Rhodes: Local Legend

Kyng Rhodes is a name you are probably familiar with if you’ve visited Newfields over the last couple of months. He is a member of The Eighteen Art Collective as well as the newly formed Looking Glass Alliance put together by Newfields to bring a fresh perspective to the American galleries. His work is characterized by vibrant colors that draw you in. If you look closely, you’ll see images of local flora and fauna reminding us that paradise can be found in our local landscapes, we just have to stop and smell the flowers. See our conversation below. 

Natalya Herndon (NH): Tell me about yourself. 
Kyng Rhodes (KR):
My name is Kyng Rhodes, I’ve been drawing and creating since the age of three. My mom tells the story about how I got into some of her cosmetic products and started drawing on the furniture and walls. But when she went to discipline me she looked and was like ‘well this is better than what’s expected of a 3-year-old’. From then on, every birthday, Christmas, and anytime someone gave me a gift they gave me art supplies. As I got older, I got into almost every magnet art program in the city, from Shortridge to Broad Ripple. Then I went to college for graphic design because it was, I thought, a happy medium of corporate work that would guarantee a paycheck and creative work. I got my degree and graduated from Vincennes University in 2016. From there I started doing freelance before I landed a job at a marketing company, and I worked there around 2020 and it wasn’t what I thought it was gonna be. It was a lot more ‘you do this small piece of the project’ then, hand it off and by the time the product came back it was completely different. There wasn’t a lot of creativity, so I didn’t enjoy that. The whole 2020 pandemic year experience shook up a lot of things in my life. So I made the decision to go full-time as an artist during that time. 

NH: You have been drawing since you were three but when did you start to paint? And is painting the only medium you work in? 
I started playing around with paint in high school, but I officially started doing it full-time in 2018. I am currently exploring with fashion and design, and I am working on a few sculptural pieces and other installation-like works, so I am expanding from painting. 

NH: When can we expect to see fashion designs from you? 
I just put in an order for fabric. I’m working on men’s and women’s designs. Dresses and button-down shirts that will have my artwork on the fabric. So, this summer you’ll see something for sure! 

NH: Can you tell me how you got involved in the Black Lives Matter mural? 
Yes, I love telling this story! So, I met Mali and Alan [founders of GANGGANG] at Monument Circle during the 2020 protests. I had this painting of a fist, and they walked up and asked about buying it. I wasn’t selling the piece at the time, but I told them I would post it on Instagram afterward, and they could re-share. We exchanged Instagram handles and followed each other. Then the buzz about the mural was going around online so I connected with Mali and she asked what letter I wanted. I asked for the B or M because I felt like they are two of the most important letters because they begin the two most important words in the phrase. 

NH: What was in your letter and how did you decide what you were going to put in it? 
I’m glad we are doing this because I have a chance to mention that there are easter eggs in my work that I don’t think people have picked up on yet. In the middle of my letter was a red handprint and one of my paintings going into the American galleries is titled Red Handed as a callback to that. I always find inspiration from my other pieces, especially the color palettes. The spotlights that are prominent in my work were inspired by dreams that I was having and I use them as a device to express that something needs attention, whether good or bad. 

NH: What do you want people to learn from or remember about your artwork? 
I normally say follow the spotlights and stop and smell the flowers. So, follow your inspiration, follow your dreams, follow that gut feeling. Stop to smell the flowers is a reminder—when you get there be vigilant, be grateful, and spend time in the moment.  

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NH: You have done a lot of work with Newfields lately, can you talk to me about the mural you did for the Philadelphia Flower Show? 
I was really proud to represent Indy in Philadelphia, a city I’d never been to, at the largest flower show in the world—and to win, nonetheless! The flower show was in March and at the time I was working on serious content, but the mural at the Philly Flower Show was a welcome break. The birds in the mural represent Newfields and artists. The heron is splashing water onto the garden and it is giving Newfields the refresh that it needs. The splash from the heron sends a ripple effect and encourages the other birds in the mural to grab flowers and as they move through the garden. As they do they drop seeds allowing flowers and plants that previously weren’t allowed to grow, to grow in this particular garden. Basically, it is symbolic of Newfields’ growing and recovery process with the community and its new relationship with artists who are considered minorities. 

You can follow Kyng on his Instagram at @kyngrhodes or at his website


A detail of Kyng’s monumental mural Newfound Fields will be on view on Floor 2 of the IMA Galleries, come see it for yourself next month. Kyng also has two paintings that will be on view in Work in Progress: Conversations about American Art when it reopens at the Indianapolis Museum of Art on May 27, 2023. 

Exhibition Credit:  

We. The Culture: Works by The Eighteen Art Collective is presented by Aaron Wealth Advisors, Gary & Hannah Hirschberg. Lead support is provided by Rachel M. Simon & the Herbert Simon Family Foundation and June McCormack. Associate support is provided by IceMiller and its Racial Equity Solutions Team. Additional support is provided by Judy Donner, Nathan & Deborah Oatts, and Emily A. West.   

Image Credits:  

Kyng Rhodes in the We. The Culture: Works by The Eighteen Art Collective in the June M. McCormack Forefront Galleries, September 23, 2022–September 24, 2023. Artworks © Kyng Rhodes. 

Installation views of Kyng Rhodes, Newfound Fields, 2023. Commissioned by the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields. © Kyng Rhodes.