Art Review: Kerry James Marshall at the Met Breuer

Art Review: Kerry James Marshall "Mastry" at the Met Breuer
by Anastasiya Tarasenko MFA 2017 

 Past Times, 1997

It takes a special artist to elevate craft store glitter to a high art and Kerry James Marshall does just that. With not a sparkle out of place, Marshall is a master at using this embellishment as a framing device for his paintings, bridging the gap between the fantasy world of the icon and the reality of his subjects. Gulf Stream (2003) depicts a black family leisurely sailing all framed with a glittery rope giving the whole painting a decidedly post-card feel. The inspiration behind it, Winslow Homer’s Gulf Stream (1899), shows a bleak original scene, a black man in a small boat surrounded by sharks instead of decoration.

Gulf Stream, 2003, acrylic and glitter on canvas

            Marshall is a master of decisiveness. His strong themes communicate with the physical choices he makes with his palette, painting language, and symbolism. A black person is literally black, and unapologetically so. Depictions of a painters palette are often larger than he/she is and are an abstract painting in and of themselves. A narrative of life in housing projects is scattered with text, verse, and the lyrics and notes of whatever tune they are listening to at the picnic. Marshall disregards the esoteric language of most contemporary art and embraces a clarity of narrative, metaphor, and symbolism rarely seen outside the world of illustration.
Untitled (Painter), 2008

The Kerry James Marshall retrospective spans 2 floors of the Met Breuer and is on through January 29th 2017.  

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