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

  • Salman Rushdie

    A line had to be defended

    "It wasn't only about me. It was a moment, when a line had to be held when you could not concede the fight", says the author of The Satanic Verses, Salman Rusdie, in this outtake from a longer interview about his life and work.

  • Darren Almond

    The landscape of the night

    The landscape of the night is like a Jackson Pollock painting - you know it's a Pollock straight away. You can read every mark within miliseconds, you feel the void, there is this calmness, that comes upon you. Interview with British artist Darren Almond about his series of full moon pictures.

  • Daniel Richter

    On Emil Nolde

    Emil Nolde was a Nazi - and so what, asks contemporary German artist Daniel Richter. "It's a moralistic debate. A debate, that mirrors the moralism and bigottery of a generation that seems to think, that the world is a moral playground."

  • Ian McEwan

    Reading from 'Sweet Tooth'

    During the Cold War CIA and MI6 funded cultural fronts. To promote the open societies agents had to operate in deep secret, an absurdity that drew Ian McEwan to write the spy novel ’Sweet Tooth’, which he reads from here.

  • Jørgen Leth

    Andy Warhol eating a hamburger

    Let acclaimed film director Jørgen Leth take you through the iconic scene with Andy Warhol eating a hamburger from his film, 66 Scenes from America.

  • Thomas Demand

    A world of models

    We realize how the world looks through models, says German artist Thomas Demand in this interview. And we live with models all the time - in science, media, even the weather-forecast is a model. Without models, we would go mad within seconds.

  • Shirin Neshat

    The power behind the veil

    "Nothing is ever beautiful without some disturbance or violence. That is why the melancholy of my works is so familiar to the people." Interview with the Iranian artist Shirin Neshat.

  • Bill Viola

    The tone of being

    Aside from a magical visual side, Bill Violas videos are always accompanied by marvelous sound. In this interview Viola talks about the importance of sound in his work and how he is guided by a kind of 'undersound'.

  • John Giorno

    Poets are mirrors of the mind

    Meet one of the great originators of performance poetry, John Giorno, as he looks back at his first meetings with poetry, his great influences, the importance of performing without a book, and where poetry is headed in the future.

  • Sarah Sze

    The meaning between things

    ”A sculpture is constantly growing and dying at the same time. It is a parallel process of construction and deconstruction.” Meet contemporary artist Sarah Sze in her New York studio.

  • Agnes Obel

    Diving into memory

    "Music is a sphere outside that of language. It's a different way of being present", says Danish singer-song-writer Agnes Obel. "That's why it is so beautiful to enter."

  • Chimamanda Adichie

    beauty does not solve any problem

    I am drawn to the beauty of sentences, Nigerian writer Chimamanda Adichie confesses in this interview. Nevertheless it is important to keep a distance to your characters.