The work of Kerry James Marshall, the Chicago-based artists with a global reputation, is headed to the nation's capital.
The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. will host that city's first solo exhibition of the acclaimed American painter with an exhibit, "In the Tower: Kerry James Marshall," on view June 28 - Dec. 7.
The show will include 10 paintings and more than 20 works on paper that deal with such themes as the Middle Passage of slave ships between West Africa and North America, immigration, class mobility and the sense of aspiration central to American life. And they should provide broader context for "Great America" (1994), the Marshall painting that is part of the National Gallery's permanent collection and depicts two couples in a small boat exiting an amusement park Tunnel of Love ride -- a seemingly innocent scene of middle-class leisure that is filled with such troubling details as the appearance of ghosts in the dark tunnel and the bobbing head of a man in the water.
"In the Tower: Kerry James Marshall" marks the sixth in a series of Tower installations focusing on developments in art since the mid 20th century. And it coincides with the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.
In a prepared statement, Earl A. Powell III, director of the National Gallery, observed: "Kerry James Marshall is one of the most exciting and celebrated painters currently working in the United States. His art is a reflection on African-American history and the reverberations of the past in contemporary life."
Marshall, 57, was born in Birmingham, Alabama and grew up in South Central Los Angeles. A 1978 graduate of Otis College of Art and Design, he taught at the School of Art and Design at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Although Chicago has been his home for many years, he credits the time he spent in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles -- where he observed the Black Power and Civil Rights movements -- as a major influence on his work.