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With his socially critical works, Kerry Jams Marshall reveals a gap in the Western art canon: the representation of and reflexion on Afro-American identity. Born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1955 and raised in Los Angeles in the direct proximity of the headquarters of the Black Panthers, Marshall directly experienced historical moments of the black civil rights movement in the 1960s, which would later strongly influence his work as an artist. The latent racism towards the black population in the USA, as well as its consequences that can still be felt to this day, is the main theme of many of his works.

Kerry James Marshall: Vignette #15, 2014 © Kerry James Marshall, Photo: Rheinisches Bildarchiv Köln, Schlier, Britta, rba_d037757

Vignette #15, 2014
For his consistent work, Kerry James Marshall was awarded the Wolfgang Hahn Prize in 2014. His paintings, collages, sculptures, animations and videos oscillate between realism, abstraction and the visual language of pop culture. ‘His painting is not only profoundly connected with the tradition of the genre, but also makes passionate reference to the present day – its social injustices, racial relationships, power structures and political realities,’ wrote guest juror Elena Filipovic, then Senior Curator at the WIELS Contemporary Art Centre in Brussels and today Director of the Kunsthalle Basel. The work Vignette #15, 2014 was acquired for the Museum Ludwig – a premiere, since it was the first work of Marshall’s to enter the collection of a European museum. In the workgroup of Vignettes, Marshall makes reference to traditional Western pictorial traditions and painting techniques to create romantic portraits of the Afro-American middle class, which does not otherwise appear in the canon of modern and contemporary art.

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