Kerry James Marshall And Other Most Influential Contemporary Artists You Should Know About

Date May 21, 2020

We all heard about contemporary art but how is it different from any other art style? Contemporary art’s meaning is pretty straight forward. It describes painting, photography, sculpture, and other forms of art that have been made today.

It’s still been debated when the genre came to live but many historians suggest the 1960-70s when modernism’s era came to a halt. But what artists work in this genre nowadays? Let’s talk about Kerry James Marshall and his stunning art.

Kerry James Marshall’s biography

Kerry James Marshall is an influential contemporary artist, born in Birmingham, US. He opened up a door to the black culture in America and explored its concepts and ideas by combining history painting with vernacular imagery.

Here’s what you should know about Kerry James Marshall:

  • he was raised in the Watts neighborhood in the 1960s, which at that time was a high crime area controlled by street gangs;
  • his mother, aunt and grandmother were stabbed 70 times when he was 7;
  • his family lived 12 blocks from the Black Panther headquarters, which deeply influenced his art;
  • many people he used to know as a child are not alive anymore due to unnatural causes;
  • he completed education at Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles and lately received an honorary doctorate by the institution;
  • he finished a residency at the Studio Museum in New York;
  • in the early 90s, he moved to Chicago and taught at the University of Illinois;
  • in 1999, he started his own comic-book series, Rhythm Mastr;
  • he received a prestigious McArthur Foundation “genius grant”;
  • he met his wife, actress Cheryl Lynn Bruce, while working as a production designer on 1991’s independent film Daughters of the Dust.

Despite the horrors of his childhood, Marshall had never lost a belief that “everything is possible.” He was “never in despair” and managed to build a new life for himself thanks to his incredible talent.

Kerry James Marshall’s art style

Kerry James Marshall’s artist statement is simple – he wants to tell a story of working-class African Americans. Marshall wishes to represent black culture in the art world and make the presence of black people in the art scene “undeniable.”

He paints not just people with dark skin, they are pitch black, like the night’s sky. Yet, somehow, they remain incredibly vivid and energetic. He explained his artistic purpose:

One of the reasons I paint black people is because I am a black person ...There are fewer representations of black figures in the historical record.

And he’s doing pretty well for himself. Marshall’s works would cost you a pretty penny. His paintings have sold for $1-2 million and are currently displayed at the best museums in the US, including Met and the National Gallery.

Marshall says:

What you're trying to create is a certain kind of an indispensable presence. Where your position in the narrative is not contingent on whether somebody likes you, or somebody knows you, or somebody's a friend, or somebody's being generous to you. But you want a presence in the narrative that's not negotiable, that's undeniable.

In his early 60s, Kerry James Marshall is a prominent figure in the art world, respected and admired by many. But what are other contemporary artists you should know about?

Contemporary geniuses

There are a lot of contemporary artists nowadays but just a short number of them shape the modern art world. If you want to introduce yourself to the modern craft, you should check out the works of these contemporary artists:

  • Takashi Murakami, the king of Japanese pop culture;
  • Miquel Marcelo, who included live insects in some of his paintings;
  • Doris Salcedo, who won Nomura Art Award, which comes with the largest money prize in the contemporary art - $1 million;
  • Frank Stella, the master of geometric art;
  • Jeff Koons, a global star and the world’s most expensive artist at the moment;
  • Anselm Kiefer, who likes to address controversial historical issues with his art;
  • Yayoi Kusama, “the princess of polka dots” whose dot patterns are still on demand;
  • Damien Hirst, the most well-known contemporary artist, who is slightly obsessed with death;
  • Luchita Hurtado, the 99-year-old painter, who had a recent break out in the art world, appearing on the art scene in 2019.

We hope you enjoyed this journey to the contemporary art. Being an artist is not always as glamorous as it may sound but those, who came to the top, will remain in the history books forever.