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A Monthly Culture Matrix For the Cosmopolitan Traveler

Studio: Kerry James Marshall

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David Zwirner / Online / Art

John James Audubon’s magisterial 19th-century work The Birds of America, a series of 435 species painted in watercolor, is a touchstone of natural history, artistry, and Americana. The choreographer George Balanchine had hoped to make a ballet based on it—and wouldn’t that have been fun! And in 2018, the artist Ida Applebroog expressed widespread feelings of rage toward the Trump administration through the exhibition “Angry Birds of America,” watercolors of birds distressed and dying. Now, the artist Kerry James Marshall has used the work as a matrix in which to question the visibility of Black artists, not least because Audubon himself is thought to be of mixed race. “For people of color,” says Marshall, “securing a place in the modern story of art is fraught with confusion and contradictions about what and who they should be—black artists, or artists who happen to be black.” Here is a fascinating analysis of two recent “Black and Part Black Birds in America” paintings by Marshall. —L.J.

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