Kerry James Marshall: Mastry at The Met Breuer, through January 29, 2017

Photographs by Corrado Serra.

“This exhibition, the largest to date for Kerry James Marshall (born 1955), spans the artist’s remarkable thirty-five-year career. Born in Birmingham before the Civil Rights Act and having witnessed the Watts rebellion in Los Angeles in 1965, Marshall has long chronicled the African American experience. His large narrative paintings feature only black figures— defiant and celebratory assertions of blackness in a medium in which African Americans have often been invisible—and his exploration of art history stretches from the Renaissance to twentieth-century abstraction and beyond. Marshall reworks the canon through its most archetypal modes: the historical tableau, landscape and genre painting, and portraiture. His practice also touches on vernacular forms, such as murals and comic books, in order to correct, in his words, the “vacuum in the image bank.” The result is a visually stunning body of work, both intimate and monumental.

The exhibition begins on this floor with two large, layered compositions from 1993, pivotal in Marshall’s career. It continues to the right with collages and works on paper from the artist’s early practice in Los Angeles. These are followed by paintings from the late 1980s and early 1990s made in Chicago, where Marshall lives and works and developed a signature practice of painting in acrylic on the collaged surfaces of large unstretched canvases. These pictures playfully borrow from and critically revise the Old Masters while addressing themes of romance and history and ideals of beauty.” — Introductory Wall Text


Exhibition entrance. Show begins on the third floor


Left: The Lost Boys, 1993. Right: De Style, 1993


Installation view of third floor


Left to right: Portrait of the Artist & a Vacuum, 1981; Two Invisible Men (The Lost Portraits), 1985; A Portrait of the Artist as a Shadow of His Former Self, 1980


Installation view of third floor


Left to right: Lost Boys: AKA Lil Bit, 1993; Stigma Stigmata, 1992; So This Is What You Want?, 1992


Installation view of third floor


Left to right: Untitled (Vignette), 2012; Vignette IV, 2005; Vignette (Wishing Well), 2010


Installation view of third floor


School of Beauty, School of Culture, 2012


Heirlooms and Accessories, 2002


Art of Hanging Pictures, 2002


Exhibition entrance of fourth floor


Installation view of fourth floor


Left to right: Many Mansions, 1994; Untitled (Altgeld Gardens), 1995; C.H.I.A., 1994; Better Homes, Better Gardens, 1994


Left to right: Bang, 1994; Campfire Girls, 1995; Our Town, 1995


Souvenir 1, 1997


Left: SOB, SOB, 2003. Right: Gulf Stream, 2003


Left: Untitled, 2008. Right: 7 am Sunday Morning, 2003


Still-Life with Wedding Portrait, 2015


Left: Untitled (Painter), 2008. Right: Untitled (Painter), 2009


Left: Untitled, Red (If They Come in the Morning), 2011. Center: Black Star 2, 2012


Left to right: Untitled (Blot), 2015; The Academy, 2012; Untitled (Studio), 2014

Kerry James Marshall: Mastry is organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; and The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.

Exhibition is co-curated by Ian Alteveer, Associate Curator in the Department of Modern and Contemporary Art at The Met; Helen Molesworth, Chief Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; and Dieter Roelstraete, former Manilow Senior Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.