American painter and installation artist. Born in Birmingham, Alabama, he moved to the Watts Community in Los Angeles when he was eight. He has said ‘You can't be born in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1955 and not feel like you've got some kind of social responsibility. You can't move to Watts in 1963 and grow up in South Central near the Black Panthers' headquarters and see the kinds of things I saw in my development years and not speak about it.’ His work has continually reflected a preoccupation with civil rights and black identity, both in large-scale paintings which evoke the tradition of the European Grand Manner, such as the Garden Project series of the 1990s, and in strip-cartoon style drawings, the Rhythm Master series, to challenge the ‘scant representation of the black body in the historical record’. In his exhibition ‘One True Thing’, held at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, in 2003, he included a video installation and a large painting, both entitled Garden Party, in which African Americans, Hispanics, and Asians took the place of whites in an Impressionist-style garden picnic.
R. C. Baker, ‘Kerry James Marshall's Black Whole’, Village Voice (4 March 2008)