The MCA is honored to present a major museum survey of Kerry James Marshall (b. 1955), one of America’s greatest living artists. The exhibition focuses primarily on Marshall’s paintings made over the last 35 years, from his seminal inaugural statement Portrait of the Artist as a Shadow of His Former Self (1980) to his most recent explorations of African American history.
Born before the passage of the Civil Rights Act, in Birmingham, Alabama, and witness to the Watts riots in 1965, Marshall has long been an inspired and imaginative chronicler of the African American experience. Best known for his large-scale paintings featuring black figures, defiant assertions of blackness in a medium in which African Americans have long been “invisible men,” Marshall’s interrogation of art history covers a broad temporal swath stretching from the Renaissance to 20th-century American abstraction. He critically examines the Western canon through its most canonical forms: the historical tableau, landscape, and portraiture. His work also touches upon vernacular forms such as the muralist tradition and the comic book, as seen in his comics-inspired Rythm Mastr drawings (2000–present), in order to address and correct the “vacuum in the image bank”—in other words, to make the invisible visible.
Marshall studied in Los Angeles with acclaimed social realist painter Charles White and participated in the residency program at the Studio Museum in Harlem. He has received solo exhibitions throughout Europe and North America and his work has been included in such prestigious international exhibitions as the 1997 Whitney Biennial, the 2003 Venice Biennial, the 2009 Gwangju Biennial, two Documentas (1997 and 2007), and the 1999 Carnegie International. His paintings are in private collections and foundations as well as major public collections including the MCA’s.
Kerry James Marshall: Mastry is co-organized with The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and cocurated by former Manilow Senior Curator Dieter Roelstraete; Helen Molesworth, Chief Curator at LAMOCA; and Ian Alteveer, Associate Curator at The Met; with the assistance of Karsten Lund, former Curatorial Assistant, and Abigail Winograd, former Research Associate at the MCA. It travels to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, October 25, 2016–January 29, 2017, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, March 12–July 2, 2017.
The exhibition is presented in the Griffin Galleries of Contemporary Art on the museum’s fourth floor.
A comprehensive monograph accompanies the exhibition, featuring essays by each of the curators; Lanka Tattersall, assistant curator at LAMOCA; as well as a new essay by Kerry James Marshall in addition to previously published essays by the artist.
Lead support for Kerry James Marshall: Mastry is provided by the Harris Family Foundation in memory of Bette and Neison Harris: Caryn and King Harris, Katherine Harris, Toni and Ron Paul, Pam and Joe Szokol, Linda and Bill Friend, and Stephanie and John Harris; R. H. Defares; Andrea and Jim Gordon; the George Lucas Family Foundation; Liz and Eric Lefkofsky; Helen and Sam Zell; and Nancy and Steve Crown.
Major support is provided by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; The Bluhm Family Foundation; David Zwirner, New York; the Ford Foundation; the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Foundation; the Joyce Foundation; the National Endowment for the Arts; and Phillips.
Additional generous support is provided by Dr. Anita Blanchard and Martin H. Nesbitt; Allison and Susan Davis; Stefan Edlis and Gael Neeson; Jack and Sandra Guthman; David Herro and Jay Franke; Jack Shainman Gallery; Gretchen and Jay Jordan; Anne L. Kaplan; Nancy Lauter McDougal; Robert Rennie and Carey Fouks; Marilyn and Larry Fields; Sara Szold; Cari and Michael Sacks; Eleana Del Rio and Koplin Del Rio Gallery; Lois and Steve Eisen and the Eisen Family Foundation; the Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation; Agnes Gund; Ashlee Jacob; the North Shore Affiliate of the MCA; the Robert Lehman Foundation; Ambassador Louis and Marjorie Susman; the Terra Foundation for American Art, on behalf of board member Nora Daley; Lynn and Allen Turner; Dick and Gloria Anderson; Dr. Daniel S. Berger; BMO Wealth Management; Dontrey Britt-Hart and Brett Hart; Mandy and Cliff Einstein; Denise and Gary Gardner; Helyn D. Goldenberg and Michael Alper; Paul and De Gray; Nickol and Darrel Hackett; Mary E. Ittelson; James W. Kenyon; Nancy Lerner Frej and David Frej; the Martin and Rebecca Eisenberg Foundation; Eric McKissack and Cheryl Mayberry McKissack; and Sylvia Neil and Daniel Fischel.