The Now Evening Auction NY Fall 2023

Kerry James Marshalls' Plunge


Plunge’s inquisition into the politics of race, gender, and leisure within bodily aesthetics appropriately mines from and adds to traditions of Western painting, from Jean-Antoine Watteau’s fêtes galantes to Paul Cézanne’s bathers, but here, Marshall uncompromisingly includes his Black female subject in this tableau and unapologetically emphasizes the blackness of her skin.

Central to Plunge is the inclusion of the pool and the metaphor contained therein. The word “ATLANTIC” and a ghostly compass are etched into the rippling water – here, Kerry has staged an allegorical Middle Passage. The toy boat symbolizes a slave ship, sailing east to west, and the once-innocuous swimming pool the Atlantic Ocean. “Water was the locus of the trauma,” Marshall continued, “The ocean is that vast incomprehensible, what appears to be nothingness. If you ever find yourself on a boat in the middle of the ocean you look around in every direction and don’t see anything. That’s a terrifying experience. Water still has significance relative to this idea of the Middle Passage. It enters into the suburban environment, through the pools in Plunge and Our Town and the water hose in Bang.”

This piece will be auctioned during The NOW Evening Auction on 15 November 2023.

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