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.

Camera: Mathias Nyholm
Edited by: Kasper Bech Dyg
Produced by: Marc-Christoph Wagner
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2014

Supported by Nordea-fonden

  • William Kentridge

    Reduced to Being an Artist

    ”One can always write ones biography in the terms of the failures which have saved you.” Meet South African artist William Kentridge in this extensive and humorous reflection upon life and his relationship with art.

  • Alex Da Corte and Ed Atkins

    In Conversation

    “My vote is for incoherence.” We brought together two young artists, who have taken the art world by storm. Experience Alex Da Corte and Ed Atkins in this video where they talk about each other’s video works and their contexts.

  • Joshua Oppenheimer

    Why Do We Watch Non-Fiction?

    Watch Joshua Oppenheimer – the director behind award-winning documentaries such as ‘The Act of Killing’ and ‘The Look of Silence’ – comment on non-fiction’s power to intervene by presenting a different story than the official one.

  • Wura-Natasha Ogunji

    Beauty in the Streets of Lagos

    Performance and visual artist Wura-Natasha Ogunji here shares her intense experience with the four-hour performance ‘Beauty’, where she and a group of other women have their hair braided together in a public space in Lagos, Nigeria.

  • John Baldessari

    Art is who I am

    “I never liked to be called a Los Angeles artist.” Meet conceptual artist John Baldessari, who many describe as a cultural symbol and the grandmaster of the Los Angeles art scene. “My perception of the city is very ugly. But that’s attractive too. It’s very seductive.”

  • Erik A. Frandsen

    Drawing Out Memories

    Distinguished Danish artist Erik A. Frandsen here shares how the trance-like experience of a 35 days and 1,050-kilometre long walk was transferred into a stunning exhibition of multi-coloured mosaic columns and beautiful watercolour sketches.

  • David Shrigley

    Advice to the Young

    “You’re on the right track if you’re excited about what you’re doing.” David Shrigley, known for his humorous spin on common situations, here advises his colleagues to be open to learning from mistakes and stresses that being an artist “isn’t for everybody.”

  • Manal Al Dowayan

    Protecting Words

    “The written word is about engaging the viewer.” Let us introduce you to the cool Saudi Arabian artist Manal Al Dowayan, who here shares why she has chosen to integrate words into her art – and why they are so powerful.

  • Irma Boom

    Passion for Books

    “The idea of an ‘artist’s book’ is ridiculous. Then don’t call it a book. Then it’s a piece of art.” In this extensive interview from her studio, Irma Boom shows us a selection of her unique books and shares the story of why she became a book designer.

  • Reiulf Ramstad

    The Nordic Way of Building

    Learn about the intriguing philosophy and projects of the award-winning Norwegian Reiulf Ramstad Architects in this interview with its founder, Reiulf Ramstad: “Architecture is on trial in relation to the development of the way we live.”

  • Rachel Kushner

    On Art and Gender

    “I’m not sure how much gender bias affects my life or not at this moment.” Rachel Kushner, author of the best-selling novel ‘The Flamethrowers’, here comments on gender imbalance in the art world, and what an intricate thing it can be.

  • Clemens Setz

    The Final Sentence

    Clemens Setz is considered one of Austria’s most successful young authors. In this short video he shares how he always tweaks the final sentence of his books until he ends up with something “that won’t seem like an unfair end.”