Kerry James Marshall the Artist from Birmingham
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Kerry James Marshall is one of the greatest living artists born in Birmingham in 1955. He received an honorary doctorate and BFA from Otis Art Institute Los Angeles.
The focus of his paintings, projects, and art campaigns is always derived from African-American mainstream culture and is grounded in the context of his childhood. Throughout his Souvenir collection of drawings and paintings, he refers to the civil rights struggle with colossal illustrations depicting powerful messages of the time (“Black Power!”) and portraits of common living areas. Marshall produced a comic series for the twenty-first century, trying to pit ancient African structures against cyberspace rulers who fear losing contact with popular culture.
Marshall’s art is based on a wide range of art-historical sources, from black folk art to Renaissance sculpture, from El Greco to Charles White. A notable characteristic of Marshall’s paintings is the bold black skin color of his figures — a creation that the artist believes arose from an inquiry into the immobility of black people in America and the needlessly bad things correlated with darkness.
Marshall appears to believe that people still have to pay close attention to their viewers whenever they do something. The sheer intensity of his paintings speaks to an art that is both explicitly thorough and socially active.
Marshall has worked in several public collections like the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art, and Studio Museum in Harlem, the Walker Art Center, Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art Washington, Minneapolis DC, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Museum of Fine Arts Boston. Marshall received many fellowships, awards, and grants like the MacArthur genius grant in 1997.
He was also selected for an exhibition in the artist’s own experience; Marshall examines hidden events and artifacts that are relevant to fictional scenes that borrow from memory and the artist’s experience current and past black culture. His research is often associated with the legacy of Western painting and the notion of dominance, authorship, and marginalization of black people in art history.
Marshall frequently overstates the color of the characters in his art, rendering them as dark as the color will afford, bringing more focus to the background color and material of his paintings. Almost all of Marshall’s painting involves metaphor and significance. Most of his project concerns the injustices of imperial regimes. Marshall is mainly remembered for his magnificently crafted large acrylic paintings on upstretched canvases.
His works mixed rough-hewn realism with collage, posters, and colorful, heavily patterned scenes. His images often depict rightist banners. Audiences can often see classic texts and statistics pointing straight into them. A few of his projects are sometimes under-represented by the black middle class, and many utilize visual techniques. His works of art are intimately associated with the black power movement. Marshall is currently living in Chicago.