Kehinde Wiley is best known for his large-scale portraits of black men depicted in poses that cast them as kings, prophets, and saints in the tradition of "old master" canvases, reminiscent especially of Renaissance and Baroque painting. Wiley’s paintings transpose black bodies into the context of traditional European portraiture, challenging the racial marginalization of art history and questioning issues related to identity and self on a global scale. Santos-Dumont is part of a larger body of work by Wiley called “The World Stage.” For this series, the artist traveled to diverse locations around the globe, including Africa, China, India, and Brazil, where he created portraits that explore the international phenomenon of urban youth culture. Wiley met the two young men featured in this painting in a favela, or slum, in Rio de Janeiro. The subjects chose to position themselves as the two “fallen heroes” in a well-known public monument dedicated to one of Brazil’s pioneer aviators, Alberto Santos-Dumont. By depicting these black men as the pioneers of Brazilian aviation, Wiley instills his anonymous subjects with a powerful and heroic identity, essentially immortalizing them in oil paint.