Mural, Mural on the Wall

Mt. Vernon mural by Kerry James Marshall at SFMOMA Photo by SFMOMA

Enlivening SFMOMA's grand entry space with vivid murals

Kerry James Marshall's depictions of colonial plantation life were commissioned for the museum’s Art in the Atrium program.

Can playful paintings tell stories of our darkest times? Among a rich and varied body of work, Kerry James Marshall creates colorful murals that subtly explore issues of racial identity and the legacy of slavery.

In 2009 the renowned artist worked with painters from San Francisco’s celebrated Precita Eyes Mural Arts Center to create two new murals for the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Atrium at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. The murals were the first artworks commissioned for SFMOMA’s Art in the Atrium program, which revitalizes the museum’s grand entry space and opens it to the public free of charge.

Hidden in the coloring-book-style paintings are depictions of the slaves who supported plantation life in the early years of the American Republic—people so often omitted from U.S. historical iconography.

Marshall’s murals depict Mount Vernon and Monticello, the Virginia estates of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Hidden in the coloring-book-style paintings are depictions of the slaves who supported plantation life in the early years of the American Republic—people often omitted from U.S. historical iconography.

To bring the spirit of the exhibition out of the museum and into underserved communities, 15 students from Oakland high schools met with Marshall and other artists to design and produce their own mural in Oakland’s DeFremery Park. The process was documented and curated into an art exhibition at SFMOMA’s Koret Visitor Education Center.