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Kerry James Marshall in "Identity"

From paintings and videos to his comic strip featuring African sculptures, Kerry James Marshall’s work unites influences from Renaissance painting and African-American traditions to question the authority of history and “reclaim the image of blackness.”

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“Either I’m working with a set of conventions that have already been established,” he says, “or I’m working against a set of conventions that have already been established.”

This segment is filmed in Chicago, where the artist lives, teaches and works. We gain glimpses into the domestic interiors of Marshall’s immediate family—interiors which find their way into the artist’s paintings, prints, and most recent sculptural and video installations.

Closed captionsAvailable in English, German, Romanian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Italian

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Kerry James Marshall

The subject matter of Kerry James Marshall’s paintings, installations, and public projects is often drawn from African-American popular culture, and is rooted in the geography of his upbringing. Marshall’s work is based on a broad range of art-historical references, from Renaissance painting to black folk art, from El Greco to Charles White. A striking aspect of Marshall’s paintings is the emphatically black skin tone of his figures—a development the artist says emerged from an investigation into the invisibility of blacks in America and the unnecessarily negative connotations associated with darkness. The sheer beauty of his work speaks to an art that is simultaneously formally rigorous and socially engaged.

“We only move into the 21st century on the foundation of things that have been established long, long ago.”

Kerry James Marshall

Kerry James Marshall

1:32
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Kerry James Marshall

2:09
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Kerry James Marshall

2:02
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Kerry James Marshall

How can an artist alter a viewer’s impression of history?

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Comics & Animation

13:00
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11:59
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4:03
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Tabaimo

Kerry James Marshall talks about the inspiration for his 1994 painting “Many Mansions,” acquired by the Art Institute of Chicago for its permanent collection.

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