Advanced Search

Portrait of the Artist & a Vacuum

© Kerry James Marshall. Photo by Peter Paul Geoffrion.

Portrait of the Artist & a Vacuum

Artist: Kerry James Marshall (born in Birmingham, Alabama, 1955)
Culture: American
Date: 1981
Medium: Acrylic on paper
Dimensions:
Frame: 62 1/2 × 52 3/8 × 2 inches (158.8 × 133 × 5.1 cm)
Classification: Painting
Credit Line: Museum purchase with additional funds provided by Nailya Alexander; Maya and Anatol Bekkerman; Jeff Bliumis; Henry and Ludmila Elinson; Dr. Robert E. Falcone; Mr. and Mrs. Robert L. Fromer; Alexandre Gertsman; Marilyn J. Holmes (T'72); INTART - International Foundation of Russian & Eastern-European Art, Inc.; Vladimir Kanevsky; Virginia Kinzey; Jacques Leviant; Innessa Levkova-Lamm; Dr. Boris Lipovsky; Mina E. Litinsky; Fran and Robert Malina; Teresa and Joseph Masarich; Marjorie Pfeffer; Anthony T. Podesta; Maya and Michael Polsky; Estate of Alek Rapoport; Vladimir Rapoport; Mrs. W. A. Y. Sargent in memory of Dr. Winston Sargent; Natalia Sokov; Amelie McAlister Upshur in 1938 in honor of Duke University's Centennial Celebration; Gibby and Buz Waitzkin; and Drs. Irene and Alex Valger, by exchange.
Label Text:Portrait of the Artist & a Vacuum is an important painting in Kerry James Marshall’s career and features motifs that have come to define his larger body of work. It is one of the earliest examples of Marshall’s signature “invisible man,” a portrait in which he uses slightly different shades of black to depict a human figure. This practice emerged from his investigation into the relative invisibility of black people in society and art history, and the unnecessarily negative connotations associated with darkness. Marshall confronts such racial stereotypes with his emphatically “black-on-black” self-portrait, seen hanging in the center of the wall. The vacuum directly below alludes to the void within which African American artists have sometimes found themselves working. Building on references as varied as Renaissance painting and folk art, Marshall often simplifies his interior spaces. Here, the lack of shading and sharply slanting lines of the floorboards flatten the room, creating an intimate, close-up experience of a domestic space.
Provenance: Purchase early 1980s from the artist by private collector; on consignment to (Koplin Del Rio, Culver City, California); purchase 2011 by Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University.
Object number: 2011.23.1