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Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas. Photography by Vancouver Art Gallery.

Our Town

Artist: Kerry James Marshall (born 1955)
Date: 1995
101 x 143 in. (256.5 x 363.2 cm)
Medium: Acrylic and collage on canvas
Credit Line: Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas, 2009.3
On View
Accession Number: 2009.3
Provenance(Jack Shainman Gallery, New York, NY); to Private Collection, 2003; to (Christie's, New York, NY), May 13, 2009, lot 47; purchased by Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR, 2009
Label TextKerry James Marshall’s work often explores themes of racial identity, community, and belonging. Our Town is part of his Garden Project series, in which low-income housing projects are ironically rendered as idyllic places. The carefully painted houses, manicured lawn, and bright sky coexist uneasily with graffiti scribbles and trees tied with yellow ribbons, suggesting war or tragedy.

Marshall contrasts the tidy scene, dominated by red, white, and blue, with deep black paint and minimal shading on the figures. Here, he emphasizes the blackness of his subjects in an art world that notably lacks images of African Americans. Our Town further evokes Thornton Wilder’s 1938 play of the same title, posing the question: for whom does this American ideal really exist?