Silence is Golden

Kerry James Marshall (b. 1955) Silence is Golden, 1986 Acrylic on panel 49 × 48 × 2 in. The Studio Museum in Harlem; gift of the Artist 1987.8

At the time of his residency at The Studio Museum in Harlem and inspired by Ralph Ellison’s novel Invisible Man (1952), Kerry James Marshall moved away from abstraction and collage toward using the Black figure to consider both the hypervisibility and invisibility of African Americans in American history and culture. While the details of the male figure in Silence is Golden are hard to make out, the bright eyes and toothy grin pop against an exaggerated Blackness, asserting his presence and referring to common racial stereotypes of Black people. Representing the nuances, monotonies, and beauty of Black life, Marshall seeks to increase the representation of Black people in the art historical canon.

Artist in Residence 1985–86