Arts & Culture » Arts

In the Galleries: Kerry James Marshall: Garden of Delights at CAM


Birmingham-born, Chicago-based artist Kerry James Marshall explores what he describes as "the mundane qualities of Black reality" in this photographic and sculptural Front Room installation — a radical formal (if not thematic) departure from his signature painting and printed work. Massive clear-plastic sunflowers, zip-tied to plastic trellises and rooted in metal, scallop-cut ridges of "grass," bloom from the gallery's far wall. Glossy red, green, brown and black plastic "stones" — the colors of the Pan-African flag — lead to the center of this faux garden, where a generic photograph of a house and yard is framed. While all feels distinctly symbolic, there's an undercurrent of dark humor here: Crumpled bags of Flamin' Hot Cheetos litter this garden path, while a framed surveillance photo of Chicago's Malcolm X College is titled "Welcome to the Jungle." The exclusion of "Earthly" from the exhibit's title (a nod to Hieronymus Bosch's phantasmagoric 15th-century triptych of Adam and Eve's fall) resonates with Marshall's Home Depot-grade material vocabulary, which seems at once extra- and sub-terrestrial, and his desire to define a specific cultural mundane. The moral of this tale is deliberately ambiguous, possibly something like: Disposable everydayness is not a common or simple privilege. Or: One man's apple is another man's Cheetos. Through July 7 at CAM (Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis), 3750 Washington Boulevard; 314-535-4660 or Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sat. (open till 8 on Thu.), 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sun.

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