Chicago’s Museums- A Complete Guide to the City’s Cultural Attractions was written in 1991. Few things stay the same. Some of the museums that Victor Danilov wrote about have since closed and others have opened that aren’t in his book. The Museum of Contemporary Art has moved and gotten more extensive since it was written. It’s now located on the near north side of Chicago at 220 E. Chicago Avenue.
The MCA started as a place to house temporary exhibits of contemporary art. It is still filling that mission housing painting, sculpture, and performing arts. It is the rehearsal space for Eighth Blackbird and we were lucky to get there in time to hear part of their practice. The museum has a theater where various performances are given.
A major retrospective show of Kerry James Marshall’s work is the MCA’s main art exhibit now and will be there through September 25th. I highly recommend that you see this exhibit. Kerry Marshall, an African-American artist, was born in 1955. The exhibit spans Mr. Marshall’s work from 1980 through the present. He believes in becoming versed in all schools of art so that one can adapt diverse ideas and use them to express one’s own. It’s fascinating to see how he blends these ideas producing a wide variety of work.
At the beginning of his career, Marshall’s tones were flat. Later on, his colors became more textured, the people less one-dimensional. For Marshall, black is a color. He has been a very prolific and versatile artist changing styles that he has done over the decades throughout his career.
As we took in the exhibit, many paintings stood out. In fact, they are all noticeable. Mr. Marshall riffed on The Invisible Man working on extra-large canvases so that they couldn’t possibly be ignored. Most of his paintings are anything but invisible. All the people in his paintings are African-American and in fact, race and Black identity is both the main theme and subtext of his works. His view is that by stereotyping all African-Americans to the point that we don’t see each African-American as an individual, white Americans have rendered individual black Americans invisible. By painting individual, diverse African-Americans in all kinds of settings, he turns the stereotypes on their heads. Go see this exhibit and let your perceptions and preconceived ideas be challenged.
Following is a sample of a few paintings you will see at the exhibit. There are many more worth viewing.