The MCA is honored to present a major museum survey of Kerry James Marshall (b. 1955), one of America’s greatest living artists. The exhibition focuses primarily on Marshall’s paintings made over the last 35 years, from his seminal inaugural statement Portrait of the Artist as a Shadow of His Former Self (1980) to his most recent explorations of African American history.
Born before the passage of the Civil Rights Act, in Birmingham, Alabama, and witness to the Watts riots in 1965, Marshall has long been an inspired and imaginative chronicler of the African American experience. Best known for his large-scale paintings featuring black figures, defiant assertions of blackness in a medium in which African Americans have long been “invisible men,” Marshall’s interrogation of art history covers a broad temporal swath stretching from the Renaissance to 20th-century American abstraction. He critically examines the Western canon through its most canonical forms: the historical tableau, landscape, and portraiture. His work also touches upon vernacular forms such as the muralist tradition and the comic book, as seen in his comics-inspired Rythm Master drawings (2000–present), in order to address and correct the “vacuum in the image bank”—in other words, to make the invisible visible.
Marshall studied in Los Angeles with acclaimed social realist painter Charles White and participated in the residency program at the Studio Museum in Harlem. He has received solo exhibitions throughout Europe and North America and his work has been included in such prestigious international exhibitions as the 1997 Whitney Biennial, the 2003 Venice Biennial, the 2009 Gwangju Biennial, two Documentas (1997 and 2007), and the 1999 Carnegie International. His paintings are in private collections and foundations as well as major public collections including the MCA’s.
Kerry James Marshall: Mastry is co-organized with The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and cocurated by former Manilow Senior Curator Dieter Roelstraete; Helen Molesworth, Chief Curator at LAMOCA; and Ian Alteveer, Associate Curator at The Met; with the assistance of Abigail Winograd, former Research Associate at the MCA. It travels to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, October 25, 2016–January 29, 2017, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, March 12–July 2, 2017.
The exhibition is presented in the Griffin Galleries of Contemporary Art on the museum’s fourth floor.
A comprehensive monograph accompanies the exhibition, featuring essays by each of the curators; Lanka Tattersall, assistant curator at LAMOCA; as well as a new essay by Kerry James Marshall in addition to previously published essays by the artist.