There’s something about getting lost in the rows of paint, clay, and metal that are hung on the walls and that populate the formerly empty spaces of an art gallery or museum. Within a glance, I can feel the emotions that had flowed through the bodies of artists and can learn the histories of other eras through the stories those artists tell through various mediums.
I spent one of the past weekends, as I usually do, in a half-filled Southern Californian art museum. It was during this time that I was able to hear the stories of African Americans spanning nearly half a century from artist Kerry James Marshall’s exhibition, Mastry.
The 35-year retrospective of the painter included “80 paintings, all of which contain images of Black subjects going about their daily business, presented with utter equality and humanity” (MOCA).
The exhibition emerges to address the lack of representation of African American painters along with the even fewer representations of black people and attempts to reduce this absence.
“You can’t be born in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1955 and grow up in South Central [Los Angeles] near the Black Panthers headquarters,” Marshall has said, “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. That determined a lot of where my work was going to go…” (MOCA)