Kerry James Marshall

Kerry James Marshall

Paint it black

Imagine being seen for who you really are, a central figure in narration. In this powerful interview American artist Kerry James Marshall talks about how he explores the presence and absence of the black figure in art history.

“We live in a material world, in which the things we see shape our expectations.” Meet artist Kerry James Marshall in this interview about his development as an artist, where he explains that he wishes to help make equality a reality by placing the black figure in the center of the painting. Marshall also talks about how growing up as a witness to movements and riots shaped his perception of the world, and how he found that art should be embedded in the political reality, and that as a painter he should work with social transformation.

Black invisibility is a psychological issue, Marshall says. It means that people do not want to see you in the fullness of who you are: "Reading The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison really is what set up this exploration, for me, of this simultaneous capacity of being and not being." As an artist Marshall has explored this idea of invisibility and visibility, presence and absence through the use of different shades of black on black, working with political events and historical figures, as well as reworking classic works of art from art history with black bodies and figures: “It’s one thing to stand by and admire the work of other people, the moment that I recognize the greatness of those things it’s unacceptable to me to not also try to match the sophistication and complexity and the appeal of those works, but doing it with images that have people who look like me in them.”

Kerry James Marshall (b.1955) is known for his large-scale paintings, sculptures, and other objects that take African-American life and history as their subject matter. His work often deals with the effects of the Civil Rights movement on domestic life, in addition to working with elements of popular culture. Marshall graduated from Otis College of Art and Design in 1978.

Kerry James Marshall was interviewed by Kasper Bech Dyg at Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Denmark, 2014.

Photographed by Mathias Nyholm

Editing by Kasper Bech Dyg

Produced by Marc-Christoph Wagner

Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2014

Supported by Nordea-fonden

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