Some of the most important paintings in the world of contemporary African-American art are on display at the Vancouver Art Gallery.

Kerry James Marshall has drawn from his experience growing up in Alabama during the civil rights movement to create a body of work that celebrates and analyzes the black experience in America.

He does this, said curator Kathleen Bartels, while also speaking to the visibility and invisibility of “blackness” in western art.

“As a young artist, I didn’t see pictures of black people (in museums), and for me that was a problem that had to be resolved,” said Marshall.

Included in his 19 pieces at the VAG are a series of paintings depicting the irony of America’s failed public housing projects, which were meant to be tidy urban spaces but instead became slums.

The exhibit will be on display at the VAG from Saturday until Jan. 3, 2011.

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