Kerry James Marshall is an African American painter who lives and works in the Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago. His formal choices in his work, at a solo exhibition at MCA, lend themselves to his theme, the absence of black voices in contemporary art. He paints black figures against dark backgrounds so they’re almost imperceptible and juxtaposes abstract images with black figures because he wants us to see black faces and refuses to hide behind abstraction. We see his figures in familiar spaces (housing projects, barber shops) but also enjoying leisure activities with significant others, forcing viewers to question the white monopoly on leisure that’s broadcasted in the media. In the center of his exhibition, Marshall scattered found images on a floor surrounded by cushions, inviting viewers to sift through the images – recalling the ancient African tradition of holding council under giant baobab trees. Among thousands of images are mostly white faces, and Marshall’s work is re-writing that history and textbooks filled with Pollock spreads but only a brief mention of Basquiat.
Header : “mugwump.” pen and ink. 2015. see more of my work in the gallery
The Lost Boys. 1993. Kerry James Marshall.