David Zwirner presents an exhibition of new work by Kerry James Marshall. This will be the artist’s first solo show in the city since his 2005 presentation at the Camden Arts Centre.
With a career spanning almost three decades, Marshall is well known for his paintings depicting actual and imagined events from African-American history. His complex and multilayered portrayals of youths, interiors, nudes, housing estate gardens, land- and seascapes synthesize different traditions and genres, while seeking to counter stereotypical representations of black people in society. Engaging with issues of identity and individualism, he frequently depicts his figures in an extreme opaque, black color, which stylizes their appearance while being a literal and rhetorical reference to the term black and its diametric opposition to the white “mainstream.” With art history today acknowledged as having been written from the perspective of white Western artists, Marshall assimilates the limitations and contradictions inherent in its styles, subjects, and chronologies, creating highly personalized works that appear recognizable and unfamiliar at the same time.
Marshall also produces drawings in the style of comic books, sculptural installations, photography, and video. As with his paintings, these works accumulate various stylistic influences to address the historiography of black art, while at the same time drawing attention to the fact that they are not inherently partisan because their subjects are black.
For his first show with David Zwirner, Marshall will present new paintings that collectively examine notions of observing, witnessing, and exhibiting. While central to the relationship between viewer and artwork, these overarching concepts are typically steeped in conventions that render them passive acts. Marshall veers away from common expectations of how works are displayed to be seen, using the etymological differences between looking and seeing as his point of departure for a series of portraits where the subjects’ dissociated stares seem as defiant as they are mystifying. A fully illustrated book is forthcoming by the gallery’s new publishing program.
In addition to David Zwirner, the artist is represented by Jack Shainman Gallery in New York and Koplin Del Rio in Los Angeles.