At the age of 60, artist Kerry James Marshall is having his moment.
Dubbed by the Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA) as “one of America’s greatest living artists,” Marshall has enjoyed major buzz since the announcement of his latest exhibition Mastry– currently running at the MoCA. And for good reason.
The 70-plus piece retrospective collection spanning his 35-year career is stunning- and incredibly timely.
Through vivid imagery, bold color and intricate detail, Marshall depicts the Black experience throughout American history in a manner rarely seen in American painting.
From lovers enjoying the sunset as depicted in Untitled (2008), to Black women getting coifed at the beauty salon School of Beauty, School of Culture (2012), Marshall celebrates Black life in all of its humanity- the beautiful to the mundane. Marshall wants us to be seen. That has always been the point.
As an art student in the 60’s and 70’s, Marshall was struck by the lack of Black figures in the art historical canon. Black subjects rarely hung on museum walls. The lives of non-whites were deemed largely irrelevant. Marshall set out to change the art world- creating works whose central figures are not just Black, but unapologetically so. His protagonists don’t mirror the wide-ranging spectrum of Black skin tones. They are onyx- deep, dark and unmistakable.
Marshall, who was Alabama-born and South Central L.A.-raised, has also been largely inspired by the times. He deftly explores themes of race and racism from his personal experiences and observation. Marshall, who now works and resides in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood, also gives a nod to Chicago’s south side in several of his works.
Be sure to visit this exhibition before it travels to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and MoCA L.A. You will find that Mastry is aptly titled.
Kerry James Marshall: Mastry runs through September 25, 2016.