Kerry_James_Marshall_“A Portrait of the Artist as a Shadow of His Former Self,” 1980

A Shadow of His Former Self

Art history is written mainly by white men and as an art student in the 1970s artist Kerry James Marshall (1955) could not help but notice that black artists were absent from the “canon”.Kerry James Marshall - When Frustration Threatens Desire (1990)

On that lack the Chicago based painter has said: “the challenge for black artists in general is trying to find a place for themselves in an aesthetic regime or aesthetic system, and a history that did not include them as participants in the formulation of its authorizing idea. Here we are operating within a class structure that large number of black artists don’t come from. The challenge has been trying to figure out a way to get inside, but to come in with imagery that has black subject matter or black subjects by a person who is black. People felt like that particular specificity set limitations on how people were able to perceive the work because there is the notion that the black body can never really be a universal body. If you come with the black body in a picture, then people automatically tend to limit their perception of it, believing it is only relevant to black people.” Food for thought from this master painter.

Kerry_James_Marshall_Still Life with Wedding Portrait, 2015

After working for decades Kerry James Marshall still strives for perfection: “I am always trying to make a perfect picture. A prefect manifestation of blackness”. Quotes come from the art book Legacy, published by Frame magazine.

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All images © Kerry James Marshall
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