The Press in Art: Kerry James Marshall’s “SOB, SOB” in NYT Style Magazine

by Lauren Stachew on November 4, 2016

The most recent issue of the New York Times Style Magazine received a lot of attention for featuring a series of striking black and white portraits taken by photographer Collier Schorr of First Lady Michelle Obama, accompanied by four thank-you notes written by author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, activist Gloria Steinem, editor Jon Meacham, and actress Rashida Jones.

However, at the Press, there was another reason entirely for us to be excited about this particular issue. A spotlight article on Chicago-based painter, Kerry James Marshall, famous for his large paintings depicting African American figures, life, and culture, featured several full-color images of his work—including one from 2003 titled “SOB, SOB” which shows a young woman sitting on the floor beside a copy of a classic UM Press title: Africa Since 1875 by Robin Hallett (currently out of print), placed prominently in the painting’s foreground.



Marshall grew up in Watts, Los Angeles, California, where the Black Power and Civil Rights movements had a significant impact on his paintings. A notable element of Marshall’s style is the blackness of the figures he depicts. Marshall uses three kinds of black – carbon black, mars black, and ivory black. To add a further richness, he adds in color – yellow, raw umber, and two shades of blue, which give him seven types of black to work from. The intentional exclusion of white pigment is a conceptual decision. In the article, Marshall speaks about this method, saying that “the idea…is that blackness is non-negotiable in those pictures. It’s also unequivocal — they are black — that’s the thing that I mean for people to identify immediately. They are black to demonstrate that blackness can have complexity. Depth. Richness.”

At the Press, we feel extremely honored to have one of our titles featured in a work of art. To learn more about artist Kerry James Marshall and see more of his work, pick up the latest issue of the New York Times Style Magazine, or read it online. To learn more about U-M Press titles, please check out our website. If you are interested in African American Studies titles in particular, you can browse by subject area.


Pictured Below: Robin Hallet’s Africa Since 1875: A Modern History (University of Michigan Press, 1974)













Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: