"How does an outsider get in?" Kerry James Marshall on his painting Untitled (Studio)
Kerry James Marshall (American, b. 1955). Untitled (Studio), 2014. Acrylic on PVC panels; 83 5/16 x 119 1/4 in. (211.6 x 302.9 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Foundation Gift, Acquisitions Fund and The Metropolitan Museum of Art Multicultural Audience Development Initiative Gift, 2015 (2015.366) © Kerry James Marshall
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Kerry James Marshall: If you look around the Museum, you recognize there's an absence of black figures. I don't expect those people to have made pictures about me because I wasn't a part of that culture and I wasn't a part of that history. But when I come along, if I want to participate in what those pictures represent, that's a challenge that I decided was important enough to operate on the same scale and with the same complexity and with the same technical proficiency that all of these other works demonstrate. Because when you are on the outside, you have to prove that you belong in there.
I have to be able to project my self-image in such a way that I can guarantee myself a place on these walls. And so when I make a picture, that picture is going to be of a black figure; I know that before I start. Now, what kind of picture will it be important for that figure to be in?
This is a painting called the Studio. This is a picture about painting. There's sections where there's paint that's sort of built up and encrusted, and that ends up functioning as a kind of abstraction. The paint drips down onto the easel and then onto the floor and then onto some rags, but also onto the surface of the picture itself. Spatially you have a reversal of the illusion of depth. Those are devices that cross historical genres.
It's a series of different kinds of treatments that you get in the history of painting: you have a nude, you have a portrait, and then you have the artist as a kind of self-portrait. Historically when the studio is represented, it's a painter and his tools, and a painter and his model. The alternative would be a woman who controls the studio, surrounded by her subjects and her equipment, and also has the male figure as a kind of a muse.
And I think that's the primary function of a picture, is simply to show you something that you might not see if that picture didn't exist.
Director: Christopher Noey
Producer and Editor: Sarah Cowan
Camera: Dia Felix, Sarah Cowan
Production Coordinator: Lisa Rifkind
Production Assistants: Kaelan Burkett, Skyla Choi
Music: Austin Fisher
Special Thanks: Lucy Mensah