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Kerry James Marshall: One True Thing, Meditations on Black Aesthetics


Miami Art Museum presents a major solo exhibition by artist Kerry James Marshall.  A recipient of the coveted MacArthur Fellow award, Marshall is best known for his monumental figurative paintings whose subjects stem from the Civil Rights movement and his own experiences as an African-American. The body of work developed for this exhibition centers on the idea of ambiguity surrounding the representation of African-Americans in our culture.  This exhibition, for which Marshall at mid-career has produced his most powerful works to date, is the first significant showing of his work in five years.  Marshall's ongoing engagement with ideas and images drawn from black history are presented here in painting, sculpture, photography, and video.  Kerry James Marshall: One True Thing, Meditations on Black Aesthetics will be on view at MAM from February 6 - April 25, 2004. In Miami the exhibition is coordinated by MAM Curator, Lorie Mertes. (right: Garden Party, 2003, acrylic and paper on canvas banner, 108 x 120 inches (274.3 x 304.8 cm), Courtesy of the artist; Jack Shainman Gallery, New York; and Koplin del Rio Gallery, Los Angeles. Photograph © Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago)

"Kerry James Marshall's voice is unique among American artists," said MAM Director, Suzanne Delehanty.  "Marshall's subject matter makes this exhibition particularly relevant during Black History Month, when we reflect on the important contributions that African-Americans have made to our culture and communities.  We're very pleased to introduce the work of this highly regarded artist to Miami."  

Anchoring the show are several major new paintings portraying figures in urban and suburban landscapes inspired by the tradition of old master paintings, particularly the townscapes of the Italian painter Caneletto from the 1700s. Marshall has also created several photographic series depicting streetscapes, landscapes, and architecture that are interspersed as special installations within the exhibition. Together, these works can be read like a book or soundtrack, suggesting the passage of time embedded in a sense of place. New video and sculptural works will also be presented as well as a continuation of Marshall's comic strip series Rythm Mastr,in which an urban superhero battles the forces of evil using a combination of futuristic and traditional African objects. (right: Memento #5, 2003, acrylic and glitter on canvas banner, 108 x 156 inches (274.3 x 396.2 cm), Courtesy of the artist; Jack Shainman Gallery, New York; and Koplin del Rio Gallery, Los Angeles. Photograph © Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago)

According to Marshall, the subject matter of his work is rooted in the social climate of his upbringing: "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. You can't move to Watts in 1963 and not speak about it. That determined a lot of where my work was going to go."  


About the Artist

Kerry James Marshall was born in 1955 in Birmingham ,Alabama , and raised in Los Angeles. Mr. Marshall lives in Chicago where he has been a professor since 1993 at the School of Art and Design and the University of Illinois, Chicago.  He received his BFA from the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles in 1978 and an honorary doctorate in 1999. In 1997 Marshall was awarded the prestigious John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship. Marshall's work has been included in such group exhibitions as the 2003 Venice Biennale; 1999/2000 Carnegie International; the 1997 Whitney Biennial at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York; documenta Xin Kassel, Germany in 1997. In 1998, Marshall's work was the subject of a major exhibition organized by the Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago that traveled to such venues as the Brooklyn Museum of Art in New York San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Institute for Contemporary Art in Boston. He was an artist-in-residence at the Studio Museum in Harlem in 1985. (right: SOB, SOB, 2003, acrylic on fiberglass, 108 x 72 inches (274.3 x 182.9 cm), Courtesy of the artist; Jack Shainman Gallery, New York; and Koplin del Rio Gallery, Los Angeles. Photograph © Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago)

In addition to his painting career, Marshall has been the production designer for the films Daughters of the Dust and Praise House directed by Julie Dash, Sankofa directed by Haile Gerima, and Hendrix Project directed by Arthur Jafa. He is married to the actress Cheryl Lynn Bruce.  


About the Curator

MAM Curator Lorie Mertes has been with the museum since 1994. She has curated solo exhibitions by artists such as Jim Hodges, Liisa Roberts and Alexis Smith, as well as curating New Work Miami: Robert Chambers and Frank Benson, New Work Miami: Dara Friedman and Robert Thiele, and mantle, a special project by the critically acclaimed artist Ann Hamilton commissioned by MAM in 1998. Mertes recently served as the MAM Curator for the traveling exhibitions: American Tableaux: Many Voices, Many Stories, Shirin Neshat and Roberto Matta: Painting Drawings of the 1940s. Additional projects in process include a solo exhibition by California-based artist Russell Crotty opening at MAM next March and New Art, the South Florida Cultural Consortium Fellowship winners scheduled for September 2004.

Kerry James Marshall: One True Thing, Meditations on Black Aesthetics was organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago and curated by Elizabeth Smith, James W. Alsdorf Chief Curator, with Tricia Van Eck, Curatorial Coordinator.  Major support for the exhibition is provided by the Harris Family Foundation in honor of Bette and Neison Harris. Additional support is provided by The Joyce Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation, Peter Norton Family Foundation, The Boeing Company, and Loop Capital Markets .In Miami, the exhibition is organized by MAM Curator Lorie Mertes and is supported by MAM's Annual Exhibition Fund.


Gallery Notes

This four-color, take-home brochure provides background information on the artist and concepts that shape the exhibition. Available in the galleries.


Exhibition Catalogue

A fully illustrated catalogue published by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago accompanies the exhibition.


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