Kerry James Marshall: History of Painting
Hal Foster and Teju Cole
Kerry James Marshall is one of America’s greatest living painters. History of Painting presents a groundbreaking body of new work that engages with the history of the medium itself.
In Kerry James Marshall: History of Painting, the artist has widened his scope to include both figurative and nonfigurative works that deal explicitly with art history, race, and gender, as well as paintings that force us to reexamine how artworks are received in the world and in the art market. In all the paintings in this book, Marshall’s critique of history and of dominant white narratives is present, even as the subjects of the paintings move between reproductions of auction catalogues, abstract works, and scenes of everyday life.
Essays by Hal Foster and Teju Cole help readers navigate Marshall’s masterful vision, decoding complexly layered works such as Untitled (Underpainting), 2018, and Marshall’s own artistic philosophy. This catalogue is published on the occasion of Marshall’s eponymous exhibition at David Zwirner, London in 2018.
Through its formal acuity, Kerry James Marshall’s (b. 1955) work reveals and questions the social constructs of beauty, taste, and power. As the artist has written, ‘I gave up on the idea of making Art a long time ago, because I wanted to know how to make paintings; but once I came to know that, reconsidering the question of what Art is returned as a critical issue.’ Engaged in an ongoing dialogue with six centuries of representational painting, Marshall has deftly reinterpreted and updated its tropes, compositions, and styles, even pulling talismans from the canvases of his forbearers and recontextualizing them within a modern setting. At the center of his prodigious oeuvre, which also includes drawings and sculpture, is the critical recognition of the conditions of invisibility so long ascribed to black bodies in the Western pictorial tradition, and the creation of what he calls a ‘counter-archive’ that reinscribes these figures within its narrative arc.
Teju Cole is an essayist, photographer, curator, and the author of Open City (2011) and Blind Spot (2017), among other books. His honors include the PEN/Hemingway Award, the Internationaler Literaturpreis, the Windham Campbell Prize, the Rosenthal Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. His photography has been the subject of solo exhibitions in Milan, Berlin, Zürich, and New York, and he has given several distinguished lectureships. Originally trained as an art historian, he has written the “On Photography” column for The New York Times Magazine since 2015. Born in the US and raised in Nigeria, Cole is currently the Gore Vidal Professor of the Practice of Creative Writing at Harvard University.
Hal Foster (b. 1955) has been a force in American art criticism since the late seventies, bringing psychoanalytic and poststructural theory to bear on contemporary art and its historical precedents. In 1983 he edited the anthology The Anti-Aesthetic: Essays on Postmodern Culture, which helped frame postmodernism within the arts. Foster began to write for Artforum in 1978 and was a senior editor at Art in America (1981–1987) before becoming a coeditor of the journal October in 1991, and contributes frequently to Artforum, October, and the London Review of Books. His books include Recodings (1985); Compulsive Beauty (1993); The Return of the Real (1996); Design and Crime (2002); The Art-Architecture Complex (2011); The First Pop Age (2012); and Bad New Days (2015). He is the Townsend Martin, Class of 1917, Professor of Art and Archaeology at Princeton University.