The exhibition Kerry James Marshall: Painting and Other Stuff has been put together to form one of the most expansive selections of works devoted to this North American artist. The body of work of Kerry James Marshall (Birmingham, Alabama, 1955; currently resident of Chicago) is assembled through the creative exploration of themes related to life, culture and Afro-American history, approached through multiple lenses to provide new visions of issues connected to racial politics, cultural representation and social emancipation.
Throughout his oeuvre, Marshall has constantly reflected upon “blackness”, a key concept from the very beginning of his output. Vindicating what he himself terms “black identity” a polysemic idea loaded with visual, cultural and aesthetic implications committed to counterbalancing the absence of black culture in museum spaces, something he feels has marginal representation, in terms of both themes and artists. Therefore, he establishes a counter-archive approach that reverses dominant visual culture, raising questions related to legitimation, power and marginalisation within the history of art.
To offset this in favour of black imagery, Marshall employs a wide array of visual mediums, with a special focus on painting, which are all used as experimentation and self-reflection, as tools for conducting his work from the an ethical commitment to race struggles. As the artist himself asserts: “You can’t be born in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1955 and grow up in South Central [Los Angeles] near the Black Panthers headquarters, and not feel like you’ve got some kind of social responsibility.”
This exhibition, organised by the Museo Reina Sofía, and in collaboration with M HKA (Antwerp), Kunsthal Charlottenborg (Copenhagen) and the Fundació Antoni Tàpies (Barcelona), assembles a selection of works that revolve around diverse themes and motivations explored by the artist over the course of his career, visibly displaying his aesthetic and political commitment. The presentation in the Museo Reina Sofía, occurring simultaneously with the Fundació Tàpies, focuses on his pictorial work previous to 2000, while the Fundació displays his more recent output in diverse formats.