The large scale of the paintings and the intensity of the blue ocean color of Voyager, Baptist, and Plunge, as well as of Gulf Stream, form the central visual core of this exhibition, with its varied, repeated, powerful evocations of the Middle Passage. In a dark, smaller, adjacent gallery, Portrait of Nat Turner with the Head of His Master provides a counterpoint with its muted palette and the enclosed space of the master’s bedroom. The viewer is caught in the rough cross-current between the two galleries; the logic of their connection is compelling and the emotional tension palpable. Marshall has brought the nation’s difficult historical legacy inside the nation’s museum.

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