Kerry James Marshall's Bang on the Cover of The New York Review of Books
The July 23 issue of The New York Review of Books features Kerry James Marshall's 1994 painting Bang. One of the artist’s earliest large-scale paintings on unstretched canvas, the work depicts three black children in an idyllic suburban backyard. A girl hoists an American flag, while behind her stand two identically dressed boys with their hands placed over their hearts. Patriotic motifs included in the composition include two doves holding a Revolutionary War banner which reads “Resistance to tyranny is obedience to God”, while another banner is emblazoned with “We Are One” from the Great Seal of the United States. Pink clouds across the lower part of the painting carry the words, “HAPPY JULY 4th BANG.” Echoed in the title of the painting, this “BANG” alludes both to the traditional displays of fireworks that accompany Fourth of July celebrations, and to the historical violence that has been occluded through these rituals.
“People ask me why my figures have to be so black,’’ Marshall has said; “There are a lot of reasons. First, the blackness is a rhetorical device. When we talk about ourselves as a people and as a culture, we talk about black history, black culture, black music. That’s the rhetorical position we occupy. Somebody has to start representing that blackness in the extreme and letting it be beautiful.”
Image: Kerry James Marshall, Bang, 1994 (detail)