All posts in “LACMA”

10 Surprising Facts about Artist Kerry James Marshall

If you haven’t yet seen Kerry James Marshall’s glittery, figurative paintings in Figuring History: Robert Colescott, Kerry James Marshall, Mickalene Thomas, maybe these 10 surprising facts about him will pique your interest!

1. He is married to Stranger than Fiction actress Cheryl Lynn Bruce.

2. A master of many mediums—Marshall has made work in collage, drawing, murals, and even comic books.

3. Marshall created Rythm Mastr in reaction to the absence of black superheroes in comics growing up. His comic book series features black superheroes with powers derived from gods in the Yoruba pantheon.

4. The first time Marshall saw an original artwork was on a field trip to LACMA in the sixth grade.

5. Black social realist painter Charles White was a mentor to Marshall who considered seeing White’s studio for the first time “a life-altering experience.”

6. Marshall considered a career in children’s book illustration.

7. Ralph Ellison’s novel The Invisible Man inspired Marshall to make his painting Portrait of the Artist as a Shadow of his Former Self.

@KerryJamesMarsh, A Portrait of myself as a Shadow of my Former Self

A post shared by kerry James Marshall (@kerryjamesmarsh) on

8. Painted in 1980, two years after Marshall’s college graduation, Portrait of the Artist as a Shadow of His Former Self was the first painting he ever made of a Black figure.

9. Marshall received the MacArthur “Genius Grant,” for exceptional merit and creative works.

10. He knew in kindergarten he wanted to be an artist after his teacher Mary Hill showed the class a scrapbook full of greeting cards, pictures, and other imagery.

Don’t miss Marshall’s work in Figuring History: Robert Colescott, Kerry James Marshall, Mickalene Thomas. These three artists are shaped by distinctive historic events, unique in style, and united in questioning the narratives of history through Black experience. On view until Sunday May 13!

– Nina Dubinsky, Social Media Coordinator

Image: Installation view Figuring History: Robert Colescott, Kerry James Marshall, Mickalene Thomas, Seattle Art Museum, 2018, photo: Natali Wiseman.
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Object of the Week: Round-corner wood-hinged cabinet

“Why are we drawn to a work of art?” is an interesting question, but it’s also a clumsy one that is too broad to tell us much. “Why are you drawn to a work of art?” That might get us somewhere. What about an artwork compels you, reader, to pull out your phone for a selfie, or take down a note with the artist’s name, or fix an image of it in your head, so you can tell your friends about it later? What makes it resonate with you, in thought or emotion? One person might respond to the look of a piece—qualities like exceptional craftsmanship, a vision of beauty, or a herculean effort of construction—while another cares most about the conceptual content, the artwork’s associations with history, the way it offers timely social commentary, or how it prompts imagination.

Here’s some proof that art rocks: Art, and readings of art, are as diverse as people. Individual perspective colors our experience of art, as it does the rest of life. What we’re looking for, we can find. And different folks might see a wide range of facets to the exact same piece.

SAM’s Round-corner wood-hinged cabinets welcome visitors to the first gallery of Tabaimo: Utsutsushi Utsushi. That they are a nearly identical pair, “a set of twins,” fascinated artist-curator Tabaimo, who is interested in how we read multiples. Even though our eyes see and our brains understand that there are two, we can still experience a sense of confusion because the boundary between them is slippery.

The cabinets date to the 16th century, when they were fashioned from a precious wood called huanghuali. The rich marbling of the wood grain acts as a natural ornament for the tall, quietly stunning single-panel doors. While the beauty of the wood itself takes center stage on the panels, the difficult method of construction and finely carved trim provided plenty opportunity for artisans to strut their stuff, and strut they did, notably in the softly rounded upper corners for which the cabinets are titled.

These were high-ticket items, reserved for the court and elite classes. They acted as status symbols, speaking wealth and prestige over their owners, and also fulfilled the most basic of utilitarian functions, as storage for books, scrolls and other scholar’s accoutrements. Grand wardrobe cabinets like these took the place of closets in traditional Chinese homes, and when you picture a closet in your head, and then you look at these cabinets, you understand why. They looked really good while they were hiding stuff.

Because huanghuali wood was a choice material during an important period in the making of Chinese furniture, it still carries an association with that time and culture, kind of like how marble sculpture can bring to mind Golden Age Greece for those of us familiar with the European art tradition. Tabaimo is not the first artist to pick up the historical associations of huanghuali wood and bring them into a conversation about contemporary ideas. Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei has used huanghuali wood in spherical constructions like LACMA’s Untitled, Divine Proportion that are boldly un-utilitarian, contrasting the storied functional use of huanghuali.

Don’t miss Tabaimo’s playful installation at the Asian Art Museum that animates these cabinets with the artist’s unique vision, and remember to bring your perspective to the equation.

–Jeffrey Carlson, SAM Collections Coordinator

Image: Round-corner wood-hinged cabinet (gui), 16th century, Chinese, huanghuali wood, 72 x 37 x 20 in. Seattle Art Museum, Sarah Ferris Fuller Memorial Collection and an anonymous donor, 89.20.1 and 89.20.2, Photo: Paul Macapia.
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