About this artwork
Kerry James Marshall describes Africa Restored (Cheryl as Cleopatra) as “the shape of Africa reconfigured as a cubist sculpture.” Reversing art-historical narratives of modernist painting’s appropriation of African sculpture, it offers a complex meditation on African ancestry and black aesthetics. Africa Restored formally references the nkisi nkondi, or power figures, of the Democratic Republic of Congo. These sculptures were crafted as basic armatures into which accretions of metals, mirrors, and nails were driven to activate their force.
Affixed to the sculpture are “medallions,” or “icons,” in the form of photographic images and texts laminated in plastic that refer to both prominent and lesser-known figures within the black freedom movement in America as well as to Egyptian iconographies adopted by African Americans in the 1970s as a way to challenge dominant Western worldviews. In producing his speculative history of Africa and its diaspora, Marshall also casts his contemporaries as stars in his constellation of references—for example, the artist’s wife, artist and actor Cheryl Lynn Bruce, performs as Cleopatra. Notably, Marshall adds new elements each time the sculpture goes on view, including for this current presentation. Thus, the work can be seen as an unfinished, living sculpture—open to continued revision by the artist.
- Kerry James Marshall
- Africa Restored (Cheryl as Cleopatra)
- United States
- Polystyrene and latex on plywood, with ink-jet prints mounted in laminated acrylic
- 203.3 × 144.8 × 88.9 cm (80 × 57 × 35 in.)
- Gift of Susan and Lewis Manilow