Deborah Smith Projects | Contemporary Arts Organisation

Kerry James Marshall

“…. 30 years of explosive paintings, prints and collages.” 
 Jackie Wullschlager, Financial Times, 16 July 2006

“Prepare to be perplexed…and utterly entranced.”
 The Observer, January 2006

“This is American rococo … updated to an unbelievable present.”
Adrian Searle, The Guardian, November 2005


Along the Way presents a focused survey of the work of influential American artist Kerry James Marshall (b. Birmingham, Alabama, 1955), from the 1980s to the present. Marshall’s paintings, drawings, prints and installations, draw on African American history and popular culture, as well as classical mythology, to create what has been described as a ‘meditation on black aesthetics’.

The themes and ideas present in Marshall’s work reflect the complex web of personal and social issues that have been instrumental in moulding his life – “You can’t be born in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1955 and grow up in South Central [Los Angeles] near the Black Panthers headquarters, and not feel like you’ve got some kind of social responsibility.” He declared early on that each figure he painted would be black and each image would be one “that spoke directly to the issue of blackness”.

Working representationally, Marshall injects his subject – the black figure – into the canon of Western art history where it has previously been peripheral. His use of cultural symbolism and pictorial devices is informed by his experience of the world and his avid collecting of artifacts from African and African-American history, art and literature; classical mythology; folklore; film history; posters and comic books.

With a developing strategy for addressing the complicated, intertwined cultural and political rhetoric of racial representation, and with his attention to detail and interest in how a work is organised, Marshall’s paintings erupt with an explosion of narratives and textures, interweaving aspects of art history and American history with reference to: the American Civil Rights Movement, the history of slavery, public housing projects,, the modern welfare state social reform and literature, as well as cyclic narratives of birth, death, life and love.



Kerry James Marshall was born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1955. He was educated at the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles, from which he received a BFA and an honorary doctorate in 1999. He lives and works in Chicago, USA. He has exhibited nationally and internationally in exhibitions such as DocumentaX (1997), Carnegie International (1999) and Postcards from Black America: Contemporary African American Art (1998). Recent solo exhibitions have been presented by the Jack Shainman Gallery, New York (2004), One True Thing: Meditations on Black Aesthetics touring exhibition organized by The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (2003-5). In 1997 Marshall was awarded a John D and Catherine T MacArthur Foundation Prize.


Camden Arts Centre
November 2005 – January 2006

Baltic Centre for Contemporary
February – April 2006

The New Art Gallery Walsall
May – July 2006

Modern Art Oxford
July – October 2006

Funded by Arts Council England (National Touring) and Andy Warhol Foundation.




A fully illustrated publication edited by Deborah Smith and Sarah Martin and designed by SMITH is available with texts by Luc Tuymans and Valerie Cassel Oliver and an interview with the artist by curator Deborah Smith. ISBN: 1900470543.


Additional information

Modern Art Oxford Education Notes

Baltic for Contemporary Art Archive

TV Documentary: Tim Marlow, Fivearts Cities: Oxford 2006 - 2007, Modern Art Oxford 2006