Thursday, 23 October 2014

Kerry James Marshall: Look See

Kerry James Marshall is an African-American artist whose work I particularly like. I was fortunate enough during the summer to be in Madrid where a retrospective of his work - Kerry James Marshall: Painting and Other Stuff, took place in both the Reina Sofia and Palacio de Velazquez, an outpost of the museum in the Retiro park. That show also featured other aspects of his output such as his cartoon style drawings, prints and video works.
I visited the show on a couple of occasions, (it finishes on 26th October if any of you are able to catch it in Madrid), and really like his take on the African American experience and his depiction of black people where he exaggerates the blackness of the skin, by using only shades of blacks and greys for the skin tones of the figures in his paintings and prints.
This is done purposely in an effort to redress the balance in the way black people have been depicted in art history.

This show at David  Zwirner focuses on his paintings and is a strong one with some real gems in it. There is also a large unfinished painting (below), which gives us a glimpse into his working methods showing how he layers  the paint in blocks to build up the finished image.

The show Look See is about the act of actually observing placed on both the artist and viewer. "Looking" is generally understood to be a removed, detached action, "seeing" involves perception and making connections between elements". In the paintings the figures are either doing things that make them aware that they are being looked at, or are engaged with looking at something within the picture frame, or straight out of the frame at the viewer. I like the image below where Marshall draws us into the drama of an intimate situation involving a young couple, where the young man is about to propose to his girlfriend and holds the ring behind her back, making us complicit in his plan, whilst the young lady remains unaware of the surprise about to be sprung on her.

I really enjoyed this show and it was good to experience the uplifting, intense colours of Marshalls' palette in London's autumnal drizzle.
Kerry James Marshall: Look See
David Zwerner
24 Grafton Street
London, W1
until 22 November