Through compelling portraiture and both intimate and disquieting scenes of domestic life, Kerry James Marshall comments on contemporary and art historical depictions of black identity. Born in Birmingham, Alabama, raised in South Central Los Angeles in the 1970s, and currently based in Chicago, Marshall is acutely sensitive to his own social responsibility as an artist. The artist plunges his work into an exploration of race-consciousness, painting “unequivocally, emphatically black figures,” through whose depiction he articulates his intention to “reclaim the image of blackness as an emblem of power.” Marshall has been commissioned to complete numerous permanent public works at locations including the Legler Branch Library in Chicago, The Print Center in Philadelphia, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s Haas Atrium.
For the High Line, Marshall presents a large-scale, hand-painted mural adapted specifically for the High Line. Titled Above the Line, the mural is an extension of the artist’s Dailies series, specifically the cartoon strip “Rhythm Mastr,” an epic narrative of the struggle between tradition and modernity within the Afro-diasporic worldview. The works address the lack of black superheroes found in American comics, and raise historical and philosophical questions in black vernacular English. This particular comic painting, Above the Line, imagines the redevelopment of rooftop water tanks as luxury homes and condominiums.
Photos 1 – 7 by Timothy Schenck. Photos 6 – 8 by Steven Severinghaus.