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Kerry James Marshall

University of Chicago Awards Artist Kerry James Marshall the 2016 Rosenberger Medal

The University of Chicago has announced that artist Kerry James Marshall was the recipient of its 2016 Jesse L. Rosenberger Medal for outstanding achievement in the creative and performing arts. Established in 1917, the Rosenberger Medal is an annual award given to a nominee who is recognized for achievements that benefit humanity.

Born in Alabama, Marshall grew up in the Watts neighborhood in Los Angeles and graduated from Otis College of Art and Design with a BFA in 1978 and an honorary degree in 1999. When he was featured on PBS’s Art 21 series—which profiles twenty-first century artists—in 2001, he said, “You can’t be born in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1955 and grow up in South Central [Los Angeles] near the Black Panthers headquarters, 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.” The artist, who currently lives and works in Chicago, is known for chronicling the African American experience, confronting racial stereotypes, and questioning history through comic book-style drawings, paintings, and installations, as well as collage, video, and photography.

Numerous solo exhibitions of Marshall’s work have been presented throughout Europe and North America. He has participated in multiple art fairs including the 1997 Whitney Biennial, the 2003 Venice Biennial, the 2009 Gwangju Biennial, and the 1997 and 2007 Documentas. In 2015, he produced his first public commission in New York, a large-scale mural for the High Line. In 2013, a major survey, “Kerry James Marshall: Painting and Other Stuff,” was featured at Antwerp’s Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst Antwerpen, which then traveled to Copenhagen and two venues in Spain in 2014.

In a “Best of 2014” list compiled by curator Lynne Cooke in Artforum, Cooke highlighted the retrospective. She said, “Marshall’s shape-shifting roving across a dizzyingly broad range of mediums and genres attests to his refusal to be tied to the signature monumental paintings with which his reputation was secured, and to his relentless questing for idioms and vernaculars in which to voice his desire to insert African American narratives into mainstream American discourse.”

Marshall was also awarded Gesellschaft für Moderne Kunst’s Wolfgang Hahn Prize in 2014, a 1997 grant from the MacArthur Foundation, and a 1991 fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2013, he was appointed to President Obama’s committee on the arts and the humanities. An exhibition of his work, “Kerry James Marshall: Mastry” is on view at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago until September 25. It will also travel to the Metropolitan Museum and LA’s MoCA.

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