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On MuseumsKerry James Marshall

September 25, 2008

Kerry James Marshall confronts art institutions, and the canon of Western Art in general, about the unignorable absence of black artists.

“We take it for granted that this is just the way art history is structured…” says Marshall. “They [the artists featured in museums] are all Europeans. And when do other people start to come into the field? Well, only after they have been dominated and colonized by Europeans.”

More information and credits


Producer: Wesley Miller and Nick Ravich. Camera & Sound: Nick Ravich. Editor: Mary Ann Toman. Artwork Courtesy: Kerry James Marshall. Thanks: Jack Shainman Gallery.

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 Marshall’s work is based on a broad range of art-historical references, from Renaissance painting to black folk art, from El Greco to Charles White.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.

“There are institutions that everybody recognizes as being the best, and you know that you’re not controlling them. So you got to keep asking the people who are controlling them to let you in.”

Kerry James Marshall

Kerry James Marshall

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Kerry James Marshall

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Kerry James Marshall

Kerry James Marshall discusses his relationship to museums during the installation of the exhibition Black Romantic at Jack Shainman Gallery, New York, which features five paintings from the artist’s Vignettes (2003-07) series.

Inspired by the Classics

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