How do artworks address themselves to us? In her lecture on October 12, art historian and writer Jacqueline Francis will discuss The Art of Hanging Pictures (2002), a wall-sized installation of photographs obtained, framed, and hung by artist Kerry James Marshall (born 1955). This work, which was included in the artist’s recent traveling retrospective exhibition, Kerry James Marshall: Mastry, is uniquely photographic in a practice that is largely dominated by painting. Known for his large-scale, colorful paintings of dignified, hyper-black figures in commonplace settings, Marshall explores how notions of beauty reside in unexpected forms and places.
The photographs, whose subjects range from family snapshots to martyrs of civil rights, present an intriguing turn for Marshall, who is widely known as a painter whose skillful combination of historical and modernist painting techniques yields moving and enigmatic portrayals of black life.
By exploring the world of one artwork—from the contents of the installation to the logic by which the artist curated the photographs therein—Dr. Francis brings up new, unexplored questions about the worlds of Marshall’s paintings. She will also explore the commitment to photography, history, and narratives of the body shared by Marshall, Barkley Hendricks, and other artists working in the figurative tradition, shedding new light on how contemporary art can both reveal and conceal narratives, and change the way we look at pictures.
Jacqueline Francis is Associate Professor and Chair of Visual and Critical Studies at California College of the Arts. In 2016–2017 she was the Corrigan Visiting Professor of Social Justice at San Francisco State University, and in the spring of 2017 she delivered the Richard D. Cohen Lectures at Harvard University. This program is offered in conjunction with the Museum’s exhibition Barkley Hendricks: Let’s Make Some History and is free and open to the public.