Kerry James Marshall was raised during the civil rights movements of the 1950s and 1960s, and his art frequently speaks to issues of social justice. Marshall’s work seeks to center black bodies as the ideal artistic subject, as opposed to the traditional centering of the white European body. By featuring a black body, without white presence, the image puts the figure and his/her blackness in focus and in control.
The intense darkness of Frankenstein invites the viewer to look closely and embrace the blackness as deep and rich, rather than as an obscuring agent. Marshall invites the viewer to see this black man as Frankenstein’s monster, traditionally concieved as white, thereby implying that whiteness need not, and perhaps should not, be assumed as the default. By invoking Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818), Marshall suggests that great care was given to the crafting of the figure before you–this black body is a special creation and worthy of admiration. This re-centering of and investment in blackness challenges our racial (and racist) understandings and assumptions.
–Grant Landau-Williams ’19
From the exhibition: When and Where I Enter (October 20, 2018 – January 6, 2019)