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Kerry James Marshall Biography

Kerry James Marshall is generally considered one of the greatest painters of his generation. He was born in Alabama in 1956, he grew up in South Central Los Angeles and now lives and works in Chicago. In 1978, he graduated from the Otis College of Art and Design.

His work presents his point of view on the complexity of the condition of African Americans and on the persistent problems of racial politics, cultural representation and social emancipation. He also discusses the history of art and strives to fill what he describes as the ‘void in the image bank,’ while also raising pertinent questions about the maintenance of the art system and the inherent themes of legitimation, power and marginalisation.

As for the format of his paintings, Kerry James Marshall likes to see things on a large scale. As a student, he enjoyed creating collages and paintings very large formats that, although abstract, were made to be stuck on large walls and allowed the viewer to project his own story into the work. Even when his works tell a story and are rooted in the Civil Rights Movement, they are often depicted in large formats, reminiscent of historical painting from the 16th to the 19th centuries. His lines are neat and clean, and he uses saturated colours, which are strong in pigments. His paintings have both a perspective and a flat impression, especially in the faces and the folds of the clothing, recalling popular African paintings or primitive Gothic painting.

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