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Photo: Annette Hornischer

Artist, Chicago, Illinois

Max Beckmann Distinguished Visitor - Class of Spring 2017

(Kerry James Marshall was in residence from April 20 to May 1, 2017)


Kerry James Marshall is a Chicago-based artist who works in painting, installation, collage, and photography to comment on the history of black identity in the United States and Western art. He is known foremost for his stark, large-scale narrative paintings that focus on critical issues of race and history in African-American daily life and black subjects excluded from the artistic canon. Employing figuration, abstraction, and images from pop culture, Marshall’s works often subtly reference stylistic pioneers in Western arts and letters—from Hans Holbein to Ralph Ellison.


Marshall was born in Alabama in 1955, and grew up in Watts, Los Angeles. He graduated from the Otis College of Art and Design, in Los Angeles, in 1978. “You can’t be born in Birmingham, Alabama . . . and grow up in South Central, near the Black Panthers headquarters,” he said in a 2016 PBS special, “and not feel like you’ve got some kind of social responsibility. You can’t move to Watts in 1963 and not speak about it. That determined a lot of where my work was going to go.”


Kerry James Marshall: MASTRY, a major survey of the artist’s work, began in April 2016 at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and then traveled to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, from late October through January 2017. The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, is showing MASTRY from March 12 through July 2, 2017. Writing about the exhibit for the New York Times, critic Holland Cotter notes, “In painting African-American daily life, Mr. Marshall monumentalizes and ennobles it. Ordinary is extraordinary.” Recent solo exhibitions include Kerry James Marshall: In the Tower, at the National Gallery of Art (2013), and Kerry James Marshall: Painting and Other Stuff, organized by the Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst Antwerpen, Belgium (2013), and shown at Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Denmark (2014); Antoni Tapies Foundation, Barcelona (2014), and Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid (2014).


Marshall’s work is included in collections at the Museum of Modern Art; Whitney Museum of American Art; Studio Museum in Harlem; Metropolitan Museum of Art; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Birmingham Museum of Art; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Art Institute of Chicago; Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; and Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.


Marshall has received numerous awards and fellowships, including, in 1997, a MacArthur grant.

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