Many Mansions

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Kerry James Marshall
American, born 1955

Many Mansions, 1994

Acrylic on paper mounted on canvas
289.6 x 342.9 cm (114 x 135 in.)
Max V. Kohnstamm Fund, 1995.147

Many Mansions is the first in Kerry James Marshall’s series of five large-scale paintings depicting public housing projects in Chicago and Los Angeles such as Rockwell Gardens, Wentworth Gardens, or, as in Many Mansions, Stateway Gardens. Struck by the absurdity of the term “garden” to describe these failed solutions to low-income housing, Marshall was inspired to represent the profound contradictions of living in such an environment. Many Mansions is filled with ironic and startling juxtapositions of the real and artificial—from the unnaturally cheerful landscape to the three haunting, ebony-skinned figures dressed in nostalgic Sunday best. The title of the painting, visible on the red ribbon above, is a variation on Christ’s oft-quoted remark found in John [14:2]: “In my Father’s house there are many mansions.”