Kerry James Marshall: Look, See at David Zwirner Gallery
Kerry James Marshall is a contemporary artist who earned his BFA from Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles. His work primarily deals with portrayals of ultra black people in society, often showing them in ordinary situations. These jarring images immediately grip your attention.
Look, See is an apt name for the collection as it draws you in with its bold colours and repeated patterns, as well as the striking black figures present in all the images (bar one). However, as you continue to look, it demands that you see deeper into the meanings of those images, that you are immersed into the world of both artist and subject.
The issue of race is never far from Marshall’s work, given his subject matter. He makes an interesting point in reference to the black skin of the people in his paintings and how these striking figures are a gateway into the mainstream. He hopes to continue to push through until these images are no longer striking or shocking, but become the norm. This is a sort of reflection on how mainstream society views black people, and how it must learn to stop immediately identifying them as “other”.
The immediate painting you are confronted with as you enter the gallery is Untitled (Blot), where Marshall channels the psychological aspect of the Rorschach images. It varies greatly from his other works in the series in that while it mimics the strong bright colour choices, it seems far more abstract. It feels like a very deliberate choice as your mind is then open to your own personal interpretations of the work. With this open-minded introduction, the seemingly straightforward images in the rest of the collection are then unlocked; you look deeper into what is being presented and begin to recognise the reoccurring themes that link the paintings.
Marshall is a charming and eloquent man who speaks gently yet confidently about his work. An interesting statement he makes is that every decision in his work is deliberate. He discusses art history and how through his inspiration from classical masters, he desired to be counted as one of them and felt the need to learn the techniques before deciding which he wished to pursue. This is evident in his work, where each image is carefully constructed – this somehow creates freedom and openness in capturing a moment in the subject’s life.
Look, See is at David Zwirner Gallery until 22nd November 2014, for further information visit here.