Kerry James Marshall | “Mastry”
The Met Breuer
945 Madison Avenue, New York NY 10021
October 25, 2016 – January 29, 2017
The Metropolitan Museum of Art Breuer is presenting its largest museum retrospective to date of the work of American artist Kerry James Marshall (born 1955). The exhibition called “Mastry” encompasses nearly 80 works, including 72 paintings, that span the artist’s career, it reveals Marshall’s practice as synthesizing a wide range of pictorial traditions to counter stereotypical representations of black people in society and reassert the place of the black figure within the canon of Western painting.
“Marshall’s work illustrates the American experience as unimaginable without black history and culture. Through the tropes of traditional painting—portraiture, landscape, and other narrative modes—he builds a conversation around visibility and invisibility. The result is a stunning body of work that is both intimate and monumental.” – Curator Ian Alteveer
Born before the passage of the Civil Rights Act in Birmingham, Alabama, and witness to the Watts rebellion, Marshall has long been a chronicler of the African American experience. He is known for his large-scale narrative history paintings featuring black figures—defiant assertions of blackness in a medium in which African Americans have long been invisible—and his exploration of art history covers from the Renaissance to 20th-century American abstraction.
Artist Kerry James Marshall shared his hopes and visions at a talk at the Met Breuer celebrating the opening on Monday, October 25th, “If you had a dictionary and you wanted to define the word “Museum”, the first thing you would say is ‘it’s the MET’… this is always where I wanted to end up, Thankfully while I’m still living so I can enjoy it too!” He continued with sharing a quote that he considered his life anthem, “Tom Mitchell has a book called “What do pictures want” and in there he uses the phrase the really defines what it means to me for being an artist and I think it’s worth repeating… ‘Images don’t only express our desires, they teach us how to desire in the first place’ and to me that seems to encapsulate fully everything that I experience in my first encounter with the images that brought me to this place and because I understand something about the power of images and that the things you see actually matter.”
When you come to the museum if you only saw images that were of the European tradition and you never saw images that came from another perspective or that picture of the people… then there’s always going to be something missing and something missing that I think really sort of cripples our ability to imagine the world in the fullness of it’s possibility.” – Artist Kerry James Marshall
Marshall examines and reworks the Western canon through its most archetypal forms: the historical tableau, landscape and genre painting, and portraiture. His work also touches upon other forms such as the muralist tradition and the comic book in order to address and correct, in his words, the “vacuum in the image bank” and to make the invisible visible.
The exhibit opens October 25th and runs through January 29th, 2017.