Friday, November 18, 2005

kerry james marshall

I surfed around today and wound up on the site for PBS's Art:21. They have a bunch of video clips about some really cool contemporary artists. I was happy to find some stuff on Kerry James Marshall. I'd almost forgotten about him.

Marshall's been one of my favorite artists ever since I saw one of his paintings at the Denver Art Musuem back in the late 1990s. It was such an awesome painting. Huge. Like, ten by twelve. It was of a housing project, painted in crisp lines and brilliant colors. It suggested the American Dream of a clean and sturdy place to live. The people posed in these environs were black -- very black, like, pitch black -- and they were well dressed and they had perfect postures. It was like something out of a 1950s' Life magazine ad.

But at the same time the canvas was strewn with dozens of sloppy strokes of runny paint, loose spirals that looked a lot like graffiti and garbage but were oddly beautiful at the same time. Indeed, at first glance some of these intrusions appeared to be flowers until one looked closer. They were like ghosts from a rotten future.

When I go to museums I usually find at least one painting or sculpture that I simply can't stop looking at and this was one of those. I kept coming back to it. It was as deep and vast as a novel.

Anyway, it was nice to be reminded of his work -- even if the images on the web are maddeningly small:

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