Kerry James Marshall is in “The Tower.” He will be there through December 7th. Make every effort to get to this revealing art exhibition. “The Tower” for the record is the one at The National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. The spiral stair case just off the second floor will take you there. You will not be disappointed. Marshall is one of the most successful and sought after artists of the day by museums and by collectors. I’ve also seen his seen his originals at The Smithsonian’s American Collection, the “30 Americans” exhibition at the Corcoran and at San Francisco MOMA. He always inspires amazes and is at the top of his game.
Marshall’s exhibition is a mini retrospective of sorts that covers many of his series’ including “The Garden Project” paintings and his “Memorabilia” pieces. There are historical references to much of his art. The African-American experience is central and a “jump off point” for Marshall. One of the exhibit’s newest and most impressive pieces is Marshall’s own envisioning of Homer’s “Gulf Stream.” Homer’s original depicts a Black man adrift at sea; alone and surrounded by terrors and potential threats. The waters are choppy, sharks encircle the small vessel and a typhoon looms in the distance. Marshall by contrast depicts a family in a small yacht, calm waters and a definite sense of optimism pervades; almost to the point of naivety. The two works exist in contrast and speak very much to their respective times and are strong statements wonderfully executed.
Marshall who studied with the great draughtsman Charles White has richly gained from that experience. There are approximately twenty drawings by Marshall exhibited here and they are amazing to see. In many ways drawings tell more about the craft and mind of an artist than any other form of expression. The Marshall drawings illuminate this point to an extreme and are treasures unto themselves. Included is also one of Marshall’s drawing/studies for his “Gulf Stream.” In particular this adds an additional depth to an already provocative and meaningful exhibition.
To be exhibited at the National Gallery is to be acknowledged as a master of an artist’s chosen form of expression. Marshall’s placement “In the Tower” can be taken as something symbolic. Marshall has stated; “…I’m not trying to teach anybody anything. I’m just sharing some thought that I’ve had with some people.” I guess he can’t help the teaching part; perhaps he not teaching but we are certainly learning and growing through his artistic vision. Again; seek out this show at all cost. It is to be cherished!