In the Tower: Kerry James Marshall
June 28 – December 8, 2013
East Building Tower

This exhibition is no longer on view at the National Gallery.

One of the most celebrated painters currently working in the United States, Kerry James Marshall (b. 1955) has exhibited widely in both this country and around the world. His work explores the experiences of African Americans and the narratives of American history that have often excluded black people. Drawing upon the artist’s prodigious knowledge of art history and the African diaspora, his paintings combine figurative and abstract styles and multiple allusions, drawing from “high” and “low” sources.

In 2011, the National Gallery of Art acquired Marshall’s Great America (1994), a depiction of four figures in a boat exiting an amusement park Tunnel of Love. Including 10 paintings and more than 20 drawings, this exhibition—Marshall’s first in Washington—explores a sequence of works that both precede and follow Great America, affording a context for its powerful imagery. The dominant theme of these works is the transport of African slaves to America in the Middle Passage—the second or “middle” leg of the triangular trade of manufactured goods, slaves, and crops that transpired between Europe, Africa, and the American colonies from the colonial period until the middle of the 19th century. Marshall’s works explore the economic, sociological, and psychological aftermath of this foundational episode of US history. In his art, the past is never truly past: history exerts a constant, often unconscious pressure on the living.

In the Tower: Kerry James Marshall marks the sixth in a series of Tower installations focusing on developments in art since midcentury.

Organization: Organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington.

Sponsor: The exhibition is sponsored by Dr. Anita Blanchard and Martin Nesbitt and Cari and Michael Sacks. Additional support is provided by The Tower Project.

Passes: Passes are not required for this exhibition.

Image: Kerry James Marshall, Great America, 1994, acrylic and collage on canvas, Gift of the Collectors Committee, 2011.20.1

Artist Information

Exhibition Brochure


Kerry James Marshall press page

Audio and Video

Conversations with Artists: Kerry James Marshall
Video, Released: February 4, 2014, (75:43 minutes)
Kerry James Marshall | nga
Video, Released: January 16, 2014, (7:20 minutes)
Making It: Race and Class in Contemporary America
Audio, Released: November 19, 2013, (96:05 minutes)
Conversations with Artists: Kerry James Marshall
Audio, Released: July 2, 2013, (72:20 minutes)
Press Event: In the Tower: Kerry James Marshall
Audio, Released: June 26, 2013, (70:53 minutes)
Elson Lecture 2012: Kerry James Marshall: The Importance of Being Figurative
Audio, Released: March 27, 2012, (73:54 minutes)