Text by Robert Storr. Interview with the artist by Angela Choon
With a career spanning almost three decades, Kerry James Marshall is well known for his complex and multilayered portrayals of youths, interiors, nudes, housing estate gardens, land- and seascapes, all of which synthesize different traditions and genres while seeking to counter stereotypical representations of black people in society. Working across various mediums, from paintings and comic-style drawings to sculptural installations, photographs, and videos, the artist conflates actual and imagined events from African-American history, integrating a range of stylistic influences to address the limited historiography of black art.
Produced on the occasion of Marshall’s first exhibition at David Zwirner in London in 2014 and designed by JNL Design in Chicago, Look See features beautiful reproductions of every painting on view in the show as well as numerous details, preparatory drawings, installation photographs, new scholarship by Robert Storr and a conversation between the artist and Angela Choon, a Senior Partner at the gallery. As suggested by the show’s title, these portraits use the etymological differences between looking and seeing as their point of departure, featuring subjects whose dissociated stares seem as defiant as they are mystifying. In keeping with his signature approach, Marshall has painted his figures in strikingly opaque black pigments, both fashioning and abstracting their presences in order to assimilate the limitations and contradictions of style, subject, and chronology inherent in art-historical narratives written from a white, Western perspective. Taken all together, the range of materials included in Look See constitutes a vibrant and comprehensive portrait of Marshall’s original and ever-evolving practice.