Kerry James Marshall and the Lost Boys

Last week, I got to see the Kerry James Marshall exhibition before it left the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. This photographed work, Lost Boys, gave me chills – it could be an everyday childhood scene – kids playing with toys and toy cars, nothing seems out of the ordinary yet, but after looking closer at the work, the scene takes on a much darker tone.
I realized  that the dates on the painting are the birth dates of young people lost to inner city violence, and the yellow ribbon is police tape. Apparently the boy in the scene holding the pink toy gun is a nod to a boy that was shot by police after mistaking his toy gun for a real gun. At first I thought it was about Tamir Rice but then realized the painting had been done about 10 years before Tamir was even born. I had J. Cole’s Be Free in my head while looking at this.

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