Kerry James Marshall: Who's Afraid of Red, Black and Green

Text by Rael Salley. Interview with Annette Südbeck

In his figurative pictures, many of which work with the conventions of history painting, the American artist Kerry James Marshall addresses the social and cultural experiences of African Americans and, more generally, the variety of ways identities are coded and marginalized within a dominant culture. His depictions of everyday life in urban housing projects (Garden Projects series, 1994–95) and middle-class living rooms decorated with pictures of revered civil-rights heroes (Souvenir series, 1997–98) as well as his double portraits in historic garb (Vignettes, 2003–07) pay homage to the utopias of the civil-rights movement and bring a confident and reflective approach to defining shifting ideas about integration and history, of individual fulfillment and freedom. The ambiguity of the scenes Marshall depicts and the way he depicts them always also raise the question of how we read images and what our judgment is based on.

Building on the logic of collage, Marshall has developed a complex pictorial language that crosses cultures by fusing references to Western art history with stylistic elements of a Black aesthetics. His art is also shaped by his painterly interest in the formal qualities of flatness. He has found a way to translate the reality of Blackness into his paintings by using shades of black that make figurative elements appear almost abstract, while his textures of drippings, spatterings, and brushstrokes disrupt the classical conception of spatial depth, suggesting a break with reality and the naturalism usually associated with history painting.


Publisher: Revolver Publishing

Artists: Kerry James Marshall

Contributors: Rael Salley, Annette Südbeck

Publication Date: 2012

Binding: Softcover

Dimensions: 9 x 12 1/4 in (22.9 x 31.1 cm)

Pages: 64

Reproductions: Illustrated throughout

ISBN: 9783868952216

Retail: $20

Status: Out Of Print

Kerry James Marshall

With a career spanning almost three decades, Kerry James Marshall is well known for his paintings depicting actual and imagined events from African-American history. His complex and multilayered portrayals of youths, interiors, nudes, housing estate gardens, land- and seascapes synthesize different traditions and genres, while seeking to counter stereotypical representations of black people in society. Marshall also produces drawings in the style of comic books, sculptural installations, photography, and video. As with his paintings, these works accumulate various stylistic influences to address the historiography of black art, while at the same time drawing attention to the fact that they are not inherently partisan because their subjects are black.

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