A detail from a painting by Kerry James Marshall for the cover of the September 2020  issue of American Vogue.

Kerry James Marshall Covers Vogue Magazine

Artists in the News

For its September 2020 issue, American Vogue invited Kerry James Marshall and Jordan Casteel to create paintings for the cover of the magazine.

“Marshall, 64, whose 2016–17 retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art confirmed his status as one of the greatest living artists...created a fictional character, as he always does in his paintings, and dressed her in a white formal evening dress by Off-White. The dress is spectacular, but what your eye goes to is the face. ‘I’m trying to build into her expression that she’s not dependent on the gaze of the spectator,’ he told me during one of our frequent telephone calls. ‘I’m here and you can see me, but I’m not here for you.’ That’s a critical element. The great word, ultimately, is going to be ‘self-possessed.’ That’s what I’m aiming for.’

Kerry James Marshall's painting for the September 2020 cover of American Vogue.

The Black figures Marshall paints have skin so dark that it is, as he says, “at the edge of visibility.” Like Ad Reinhart’s black paintings, I asked. He responded that the comparison was apt: “Reinhart said he was turning the light out on painting. But if you’re going to be at the edge of visibility, you’ve gotta put all the information in there. The reality is that even when the lights are off, everything that was in the world is still there. You have to put it in there so that if people actually look hard, they can see it. The point is to show that blackness is rich and complex, within the blackness alone.’”

Read the full feature and see the artist’s preparatory sketches for the painting in Vogue.

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