Kerry James Marshall is a contemporary painter whose work explores the complex effects of the Civil Rights movement on the everyday life on African Americans. Through narrative scenes that draw both from history and the artist’s own life, Marshall delves into obscure moments and objects important to contemporary and past black culture. His work is likewise concerned with the tradition of Western painting, and the notion of mastery, authorship, and the erasure of black bodies throughout art history. Like Kara Walker, Marshall often exaggerates the color of the people in his work making them as black as the pigment will allow, drawing more attention to the surrounding color and content of his paintings.
Born on October 17, 1955 in Birmingham, AL, he grew up in the Watts neighborhood of South Central Los Angeles, going on to study at the Otis College of Art and Design. “You can’t be born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1955 and grow up in South Central near the Black Panthers headquarters, and not feel like you’ve got some kind of social responsibility,” the artist has said of his upbringing. Marshall has shown with David Zwirner Gallery in New York, and his works are held in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, among others. In 2016, his work was the subject of a major retrospective titled Mastry that would travel to the MCA Chicago, MOCA, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art to widespread critical acclaim.
Marshall lives and works in Chicago.