Kerry James Marshall - 20th C. & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session New York Wednesday, November 13, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Description

    Please note that this lot is subject to a guarantee by a third party with a financial interest who will bid and may continue to bid on this lot.

  • Provenance

    Jack Shainman Gallery, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    In Kerry James Marshall’s Untitled, 2003, an exquisitely rendered black angel solemnly draws closed a shimmering, silver curtain, symbolically concluding an end to the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. Glistening with a profound spirituality, the present work features the same figure from Marshall’s seminal large-scale painting executed the same year, Memento #5—the final work in the artist’s Souvenir series, which is housed in the permanent collection of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City and was recently included in the artist’s celebrated mid-career survey, Kerry James Marshall: Mastry, 2016-17. Honoring a decade of peaceful civil disobedience, courageous acts of protest, monumental strides in legislation, and tragic deaths, Untitled is a powerful elegy to a decade of triumph for the African American community, and the country at large.

    Driven by a passion to render an entire history that has been overlooked, Marshall insists on the power of figuration as a defining characteristic of his oeuvre. Drawing from a myriad of sources ranging from early Renaissance paintings, to film, and folk art, Marshall consistently returns to portraiture as the core of his artistic practice. Characteristic of his signature portraits, the angel in Untitled is uncompromisingly black—there is an indisputable elegance to the stark, monochromatic rendering of the figure, as Marshall reduces complex tonal variations to a singular dimension. The artist explains, “I tend to think having that extreme of color, that kind of black, is amazingly beautiful… and powerful. What I was thinking to do with my image was to reclaim the image of blackness as an emblem of power” (Kerry James Marshall, quoted in Miss Rosen, “'Mastry' Comes to MOCA!”, Mandatory, March 2017, online).

    In Untitled, Marshall adorns his angel with gold, glittering wings, a motif repeated throughout the artist’s Souvenir paintings. By presenting the black figure as a divine being, Marshall seeks to redress the absence of black persons from the canon of Western art—specifically Renaissance painting—in which he perceives a gaping hole. The artist characterizes these works as “elegiac," as “some kind of requiem for the civil rights struggle and Black Liberation Movement” (Kerry James Marshall, quoted in “An Argument for Something Else: Dieter Roelstraete in Conversation with Kerry James Marshall, Chicago 2012”, Kerry James Marshall: Painting and Other Stuff, Antwerp, 2014, p. 26). While celebrating a decade of great strides for the African American community, Marshall’s angel possesses a tangible sadness, commemorating, too, the tragedy and hardship felt before, during and beyond these years. Created 40 years after the conclusion of the Civil Rights Movement, Untitled reflects the artist’s own preoccupation surrounding racial inequality in the United States. Echoing the past as much as the present, Untitled resonates today as it will, undoubtedly, tomorrow.

Ο ◆347


signed with the artist's initials and dated "2003 KJM" lower right
charcoal, graphite and glitter on paper
21 1/2 x 26 7/8 in. (54.6 x 68.3 cm.)
Executed in 2003.

$300,000 - 400,000 

Sold for $412,500

Contact Specialist
Rebekah Bowling
Head of Day Sale, Afternoon Session
New York
+ 1 212 940 1250

20th C. & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session

New York Auction 13 November 2019