Kerry James Marshall: Mastry will hit the final stop of its three-city tour at The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA) on March 12 and will run through July 3, 2017. Mastry is organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (MCA), The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, (The Met), and MOCA, exhibiting there respectively, and has received critical acclaim from The New Yorker, The Guardian, The New York Times, among others, including the personal admiration of former first lady Michelle Obama.
Encompassing nearly 80 works from over 35 years, the exhibition showcases Marshall's large-scale narrative works that capture the African American experience and celebrate the black figure. Bruce W. Ferguson, president of Otis College of Art and Design, met with Marshall ('78 Fine Arts) at the opening of the show at The Met Breuer. "For Otis where it all started. Where I found my people," he signed in an exhibition catalog for the College's collection, which is now on display in the Millard Sheets Library on campus.
As a middle-schooler, Marshall was selected for one of the youth programs at Otis College. It was during one of these classes that he was able to visit the studio of painter Charles White, a personal hero for the artist. “That was for me a life-altering experience,” Marshall told the Los Angeles Times. “I saw for the first time what an artist’s studio was. You could see work just starting and work that was almost completed. I clearly understood that making artwork wasn’t magic. It doesn’t just happen. You have to work at it.”
"A deeply accomplished artist, who makes ravishing paintings, Marshall’s strategy was three-fold," states the exhibition announcement from MOCA. "First, as a young artist he decided to paint only black figures. He was unequivocal in his pursuit of black beauty. His figures are an unapologetic ebony black, and they occupy the paintings with a sense of authority and belonging. Second, Marshall worked to make a wide variety of images populated with black people. This led him to make exquisite portraits, lush landscape paintings, everyday domestic interiors, and paintings that depict historical events, all featuring black subjects as if their activities were completely and utterly normal. Third, Marshall concentrated on painterly mastery as a fundamental strategy. By mastering the art of representational and figurative painting, during a period when neither was in vogue, Marshall produced a body of work that bestows beauty and dignity where it had long been denied."
MOCA is hosting several events in conjunction with the exhibition, including Artists on Artists: Lari Pittman on Kerry James Marshall on Thursday, March 23 at MOCA Grand Avenue and Kerry James Marshall and Helen Molesworth in Conversation on Thursday, March 30 at the Colburn School. For more information and a full list of programming, visit www.moca.org/exhibition/kerry-james-marshall-mastry.
Image: Kerry James Marshall, Past Times, 1997, acrylic and collage on canvas, 114 x 156 in., Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, McCormick Place Art Collection, photo by Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago