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about this work

The 13-foot-wide Souvenir IV, painted in grisaille on unstretched canvas and shown pinned to the wall like a ceremonial banner, is one of a series of four works dedicated to cultural figures and Civil Rights leaders who died in the 1960s, most but not all of them African-American. At its center is a scroll listing important musicians; cloud-haloed heads above trumpet other artists, and additional figures are named in the banderoles at the upper margin. On a sofa in a well-appointed living room (based on those of Kerry James Marshall’s relatives and friends) sits a dignified older woman, her bearing so calm that it is easy to overlook the massive pair of wings on her shoulders. If much of the text in Souvenir IV is elegiac—especially the message “We Mourn Our Loss” at bottom—the image of this woman adds a note of poignant celebration. Marshall’s work sidesteps conventional or condemnatory summaries of African-American experience. Instead, he explores the rarely acknowledged optimism that flourishes amid difficult circumstances and the pride that outlives mourning for fallen heroes. 

Kerry James Marshall, Souvenir IV, 1998  98.56
Kerry James Marshall, Souvenir IV, 1998. Synthetic polymer and glitter on paper on canvas with grommets, 107 1/2 × 157 1/2 in. (273.1 × 400.1 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase with funds from the Painting and Sculpture Committee  98.56 For Teachers