As a budding artist in the 1960's and 1970's, Marshall noticed how black lives were missing from the canvas, which lead to his life-long project of infiltrating the Western canon of art with the African-American narrative.

"The museums were built around these old masterworks, but there were no black people in that pantheon of old masters," Marshall said.

"That was a part of the whole motivation.''

His works have a key message: in paint, black lives matter. From the Renaissance to 20th-century American abstraction, Marshall shakes up the history of art, his works a tableau of black American life.

Perhaps his most influential work is Marshall's Rythm Mastr, an ongoing comic book which Marshall once explained he created ''because I saw that black kids are interested in comics and superheroes just like everybody else. But the market has somehow never been able to sustain a set of black super heroes in a way that could capture the imagination, not just of the black populations but also of the general population as a whole.''

The exhibition at MCA begins with a small work of portraiture depicting a grinning African-American figure, near-hidden in the shadows. The work, titled Portrait of the Artist as a Shadow of His Former Self was partly inspired by Ralph Ellison's theme of black absence in his 1952 novel Invisible Man.

Madeleine Grynsztejn, Pritzker director of the MCA Chicago, comments: "His paintings — you know this standing in front of them — they are extraordinarily generous, visually generous.''

There is a richness of color, a richness of composition. There's an excess of giving back to the viewer on aesthetic terms. But underneath, there has been a deeply intellectual enterprise."

"Kerry James Marshall: Mastry" will run from April 23 to September 25, 2016 at MCA Chicago, 220 E. Chicago Ave. For more information, see here.