Kerry James Marshall

Kerry James Marshall (b.1955, United States) lives and works in Chicago. He is a painter and draughtsman whose work addresses notions of identity, color, and society. Marshall received a BFA. and honorary doctorate from the Otis Art Institute, Los Angeles. His work was featured in a major traveling survey, Painting and Other Stuff, at the Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst Antwerpen; Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Copenhagen; Antoni Tapies Foundation, Barcelona; and Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid (2013–2014). Recent solo exhibitions include Kerry James Marshall: In the Tower, National Gallery of Art, DC (2013); Front Room Series, Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, Missouri (2013); and Who’s Afraid of Red, Black and Green, Secession, Vienna (2012). Previous traveling solo exhibitions include Camden Arts Centre, London (2005) and the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (2003). Marshall has received the Wolfgang Hahn Prize (2014) and was appointed to President Barack Obama’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities in 2013. His work is featured in museum collections including the Art Institute of Chicago; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the National Gallery of Art, D.C.; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; the Metropolitan Museum of Art; MoMA; and the Whitney, New York.

Studies for “Untitled Black Empire Suite”, 2015
Drawings, crayon and charcoal

Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

Kerry James Marshall’s Studies for “Untitled Black Empire Suite” is a triptych of new large-scale drawings from his Enlightenment project entitled. The ideas of “Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité” / “Imperial, Colonial, Post-Colonial” / “‘Black Power,’ ‘We Shall Overcome,’ ‘By Any Means Necessary’” frame these new works. Like most aspirational ideals, these slogans and many “Liberation” struggles are undone by failures of self-critique. The urgencies of the moment, impulsiveness, expediency, and a desperate need for success inevitably reduce time for reflection. History is hindsight. Hindsight is recollection of the best “tall tales.”


Marshall takes inspiration from George S. Schuyler’s Black Empire, first serialized in the Pittsburgh Courier between 1936 and 1938, presenting stories of a radical African American-led conspiracy to liberate Africa and create an independent nation to unify the continent.

With this “proto-science-fiction” novel in mind, the artist seeks to embody the histories, idealisms, fantasies, and realities appended to struggles for freedom and equality.


Studies for “Untitled Black Empire Suite” (2015), Installation view Göteborg Konsthall, GIBCA 2015. Photo: Hendrik Zeitler