Editioned for the Renaissance Society, these works continue Marshall’s excavation of art history and the marginalization of African Americans in the United States. The plates carry several iconic catchphrases from the Civil Rights Movement, including “black is beautiful” and “we shall overcome.”

Set of five 12" dinner plates.

Kerry James Marshall presented "Mementos" at The Renaissance Society from May 6 through June 28, 1998. About the exhibition, Associate Curator and Director of Education Hamza Walker wrote the following:

"Mementos consists of three new large scale canvases, a video installation, two photographs, a funerary floral arrangement, and a series of prints that correspond to the five oversized stamps reminiscent of works by Claes Oldenburg. From the corridor, one can glimpse the five stamps that feature prominent 1960s slogans which run the political gamut of the Civil Rights Movement, from "We Shall Overcome," the title of a hymn synonymous with the non-violent strategies of Martin Luther King, Jr., to "Black Power," the title of Stokely Carmichael's (a.k.a., Kwame Turre) black nationalist manifesto. Marshall has arranged the prints to form a narrative which runs from a message of love to a message of violence. Pulled in red, black and green, colors symbolic of black nationalism, the slogans are nostalgic, their life expectancy reduced to that of a T-shirt. The stark white frames and bold, sans-serif typeface of the prints combined with the simple but pronounced geometry of the stamps makes this an elegant modernist work designed for an institutional setting. For Marshall, elevating these slogans to museum status is a metaphor for the fate of the Civil Rights Movement which has become the object of academic analysis rather than a lesson in political strategy deployed at a grass roots level. The intellectual chiefs are many but the troops are few making phenomena such as the Million Man March that much more pronounced. Toppled, tumbled or upright, the stamps can be read as buoys adrift on the ground plane of history come again as an endless sea of debate or as fallen monuments, tombstones even, to popular slogans which have lost their ability to galvanize the black community."

The Renaissance Society

About Kerry James Marshall

Kerry James Marshall challenges the marginalization of African-Americans through his formally rigorous paintings, drawings, videos, and installations, whose central protagonists are always, in his words, “unequivocally, emphatically black.” As he describes, his work is rooted in his life experience: “You can’t be born in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1955 and grow up in South Central [Los Angeles] near the Black Panthers headquarters, and not feel like you’ve got some kind of social responsibility. You can’t move to Watts in 1963 and not speak about it.” Marshall’s erudite knowledge of art history and black folk art structures his compositions; he mines black culture and stereotypes for his unflinching subject matter. In Black Star (2011), a nude black woman bursts through a Frank Stella-like canvas, commanding attention and daring viewers to consider how she has been (and how she should be) seen and portrayed.

American, b. 1955, Birmingham, Alabama, based in Chicago, Illinois

Solo Shows on Artsy

Kerry James Marshall: Mastry, MCA Chicago, Chicago

Group Shows on Artsy

East Building Permanent Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., Washington
Witness, MCA Chicago, Chicago
IDENTITY: A Visual Artifact, Koplin Del Rio, Seattle
Summer Selections 2014, Aaron Payne Fine Art, Santa Fe