Kerry James Marshall’s Panel 61

The story of migration is ongoing. In the final, 60th panel of The Migration Series, Jacob Lawrence leaves us with the words “And the migrants keep coming.” The Phillips has invited contemporary artists to continue Jacob Lawrence’s work. Check the recently launched Jacob Lawrence website for additional works to be unveiled in this dynamic curated selection, or contribute your own #Panel61.

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Kerry James Marshall, Great America, 1994. Acrylic and collage on canvas, 103 x 114 in. National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of the Collectors Committee © Kerry James Marshall. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

Kerry James Marshall, Great America

Great America is contemporaneous with Marshall’s well-known Garden Project (1994–95), a series of paintings based on housing projects with “gardens” in their names, such as Nickerson Gardens in Watts, where he grew up. In those works, Marshall sought to convey the dignity and complexity of lives set within difficult circumstances. In Great America he re-imagines a boat ride into the haunted tunnel of an amusement park as the Middle Passage of slaves from Africa to the New World. What might in other hands be a work of heavy irony becomes instead a delicate interweaving of the histories of painting and race. The painting, which is stretched directly onto the wall, creates a screen or backdrop onto which viewers project their own associations triggered by the diaphanous yet powerful imagery.

Hot tip: if you’re in the neighborhood, you can see this work on view in the recently reopened East Building of the National Gallery of Art.

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