A Brief Look: Kerry James Marshall

This week Raina Benoit takes us to the Ashé Cultural Arts Center for a look at Kerry James Marshall's P.3 storefront installation.

Installation view of Kerry James Marshall’s The Manifold Pleasures, and such…, 2014, at the Ashé Cultural Arts Center, New Orleans. Courtesy the artist and David Zwirner Gallery; Jack Shainman Gallery, New York; and Koplin Del Rio, Culver City.

Kerry James Marshall
Ashé Cultural Arts Center
1712 Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard
October 25, 2014–January 25, 2015

The Ashé Cultural Arts Center has been an anchor of the Central City neighborhood for over 15 years—a neighborhood now freckled with visibly new construction among its more historic and sometimes even derelict buildings. A gathering place designed to both help restore the neighborhood and celebrate the cultural identity of its predominately African-American population, Ashé was the perfect choice for Kerry James Marshall. Marshall, known for the reclamation and refusal of black stereotypes in his paintings, rightfully embraces the joy of the site rather than the painful histories and images it was created to counteract. The site-specific storefront display entitled The Manifold Pleasures, and such... consists of gold mirrors and neon Plexiglas geometric tables adorned with wrapped birthday presents, hallmark cards, even a Party City plastic bag. It’s a strange mix of the rarified and the commonplace, which is not altogether surprising given Marshall’s previous sculpture and installation projects, and it’s possible to read the setup as a nod to the countless acts of positive affirmation and transformation—both individual and collective—that have transpired within its walls. But unlike the number of traditional museums and galleries used to house this year’s Prospect biennial, this site demands more, which Marshall has proven countless times he can deliver. Here perhaps the biggest risk Marshall takes is being mistaken for a cosmetic window display by the unassuming passerby.