David Zwirner present Kerry James Marshall: History of Painting at the gallery’s London location. This will be the artist’s first exhibition of new work since his critically acclaimed retrospective, Mastry, and his second solo presentation with the gallery.
Through its formal acuity, Marshall’s work reveals and questions the social constructs of beauty, taste, and power. As the artist has written, ‘I gave up on the idea of making Art a long time ago, because I wanted to know how to make paintings; but once I came to know that, reconsidering the question of what Art is returned as a critical issue.’1 Engaged in an ongoing dialogue with six centuries of representational painting, Marshall has deftly reinterpreted and updated its tropes, compositions, and styles, even pulling talismans from the canvases of his forebearers and recontextualising them within a modern setting. At the centre of his prodigious oeuvre, which also includes drawings and sculpture, is the critical recognition of the conditions of invisibility so long ascribed to black bodies in the Western pictorial tradition, and the creation of what he calls a ‘counter-archive’ that reinscribes these figures within its narrative arc.
For this exhibition, Marshall has widened his scope to address the medium in its totality, exploring both the multiple ways that paintings can be made and, accordingly, how our reception of them is conditioned by context. As he explains, on the heels of the success of his retrospective, he found himself looking for the next logical step in his artistic production: ‘In a way, the title of the show is kind of a challenge to myself, a way back into the work in the studio after the public obligations associated with following the retrospective … With History of Painting, I want to at least take a stab at examining not only the origins of painting as a practice, but also the endpoint of what paintings end up being after their original use has been exhausted.’2
In the works on view, Marshall moves through a progression of conceptions of paintings as objects that are created, exhibited, and circulated, not only examining the formal evolution of the medium, but equally taking into account the history of our relationship with it.
A fully illustrated catalogue, including new scholarship by Teju Cole and others, is forthcoming from David Zwirner Books