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Titus Kaphar

Titus Kaphar, Behind the Myth of Benevolence, 2014 Oil on canvas, 59 × 34 × 7 inches (149.9 × 86.4 × 17.8 cm)© Titus Kaphar

Titus Kaphar, Behind the Myth of Benevolence, 2014

Oil on canvas, 59 × 34 × 7 inches (149.9 × 86.4 × 17.8 cm)
© Titus Kaphar

Titus Kaphar, Jerome LVII (2015) and Jerome LVIII (2015) Oil, gold leaf, and tar on wood panel, each: 10 × 9 inches (25.4 × 22.9 cm)© Titus Kaphar. Photo: Christopher Gardener

Titus Kaphar, Jerome LVII (2015) and Jerome LVIII (2015)

Oil, gold leaf, and tar on wood panel, each: 10 × 9 inches (25.4 × 22.9 cm)
© Titus Kaphar. Photo: Christopher Gardener

Titus Kaphar, The Jerome Project (Asphalt and Chalk) V, 2014 Graphite on asphalt paper, 49 × 35 ½ inches (124.5 × 90.2 cm), Museum of Modern Art, New York© Titus Kaphar. Photo: Jeremy Lawson

Titus Kaphar, The Jerome Project (Asphalt and Chalk) V, 2014

Graphite on asphalt paper, 49 × 35 ½ inches (124.5 × 90.2 cm), Museum of Modern Art, New York
© Titus Kaphar. Photo: Jeremy Lawson

Titus Kaphar, Billy Lee: Portrait in Tar, 2016 Tar and oil on canvas, 60 × 48 inches (152.4 × 121.9 cm)© Titus Kaphar. Photo: Jeremy Lawson

Titus Kaphar, Billy Lee: Portrait in Tar, 2016

Tar and oil on canvas, 60 × 48 inches (152.4 × 121.9 cm)
© Titus Kaphar. Photo: Jeremy Lawson

Titus Kaphar, Ona Judge: Portrait in Tar, 2016 Tar and oil on canvas, 60 × 48 inches (152.4 × 121.9 cm)© Titus Kaphar. Photo: Jeremy Lawson

Titus Kaphar, Ona Judge: Portrait in Tar, 2016

Tar and oil on canvas, 60 × 48 inches (152.4 × 121.9 cm)
© Titus Kaphar. Photo: Jeremy Lawson

Titus Kaphar, Twisted Tropes, 2016 Oil on canvas with antique frame, 53 × 57 × 11 inches (134.6 × 144.8 × 28 cm)© Titus Kaphar. Photo: Christopher Gardener

Titus Kaphar, Twisted Tropes, 2016

Oil on canvas with antique frame, 53 × 57 × 11 inches (134.6 × 144.8 × 28 cm)
© Titus Kaphar. Photo: Christopher Gardener

Titus Kaphar, Impressions of Liberty, 2017 American sycamore, plywood, glass, high density urethane, graphite, and LED lights, 84 × 86 × 36 inches (213.4 × 218.4 × 91.4 cm), installation view, Maclean House, Princeton University, New Jersey© Titus Kaphar. Photo: Princeton University Art Museum, New Jersey

Titus Kaphar, Impressions of Liberty, 2017

American sycamore, plywood, glass, high density urethane, graphite, and LED lights, 84 × 86 × 36 inches (213.4 × 218.4 × 91.4 cm), installation view, Maclean House, Princeton University, New Jersey
© Titus Kaphar. Photo: Princeton University Art Museum, New Jersey

Titus Kaphar, Menina, 2017 Oil on canvas, 76 × 54 inches (193 × 137.2 cm)© Titus Kaphar. Photo: Jeremy Lawson

Titus Kaphar, Menina, 2017

Oil on canvas, 76 × 54 inches (193 × 137.2 cm)
© Titus Kaphar. Photo: Jeremy Lawson

Titus Kaphar, Shifting the Gaze, 2017 Oil on canvas, 84 × 108 inches (213.4 × 274.3 cm), Brooklyn Museum, New York© Titus Kaphar. Photo: Christopher Gardener

Titus Kaphar, Shifting the Gaze, 2017

Oil on canvas, 84 × 108 inches (213.4 × 274.3 cm), Brooklyn Museum, New York
© Titus Kaphar. Photo: Christopher Gardener

Titus Kaphar, Seeing through Time, 2018 Oil on canvas, 60 × 48 inches (152.4 × 121.9 cm)© Titus Kaphar. Photo: Christopher Gardener

Titus Kaphar, Seeing through Time, 2018

Oil on canvas, 60 × 48 inches (152.4 × 121.9 cm)
© Titus Kaphar. Photo: Christopher Gardener

Titus Kaphar, State Number Two (Dwayne Betts), 2019 Tar and oil on canvas, 59 ½ × 75 ¾ × 2 ⅞ inches (151.1 × 192.4 × 7.3 cm)© Titus Kaphar. Photo: Kris Graves

Titus Kaphar, State Number Two (Dwayne Betts), 2019

Tar and oil on canvas, 59 ½ × 75 ¾ × 2 ⅞ inches (151.1 × 192.4 × 7.3 cm)
© Titus Kaphar. Photo: Kris Graves

Installation view, Redaction: A Project by Titus Kaphar and Reginald Dwayne Betts, MoMA PS1, New York, March 31–May 5, 2019 Artwork © Titus Kaphar and Reginald Dwayne Betts. Photo: Matthew Septimus

Installation view, Redaction: A Project by Titus Kaphar and Reginald Dwayne Betts, MoMA PS1, New York, March 31–May 5, 2019

Artwork © Titus Kaphar and Reginald Dwayne Betts. Photo: Matthew Septimus

Titus Kaphar and Reginald Dwayne Betts, Untitled, 2019, from the Redaction project Etching and silkscreen on paper, 22 × 30 inches (55.9 × 76.2 cm)© Titus Kaphar and Reginald Dwayne Betts. Photo: Kris Graves

Titus Kaphar and Reginald Dwayne Betts, Untitled, 2019, from the Redaction project

Etching and silkscreen on paper, 22 × 30 inches (55.9 × 76.2 cm)
© Titus Kaphar and Reginald Dwayne Betts. Photo: Kris Graves

About

If we don’t amend history by making new images and new representations, we are always going to be excluding ourselves.
—Titus Kaphar

Painter, sculptor, filmmaker, and installation artist Titus Kaphar confronts history by dismantling classical structures and styles of visual representation in Western art in order to subvert them. Dislodging entrenched narratives from their status as “past” so as to understand and estimate their impact on the present, he exposes the conceptual underpinnings of contested nationalist histories and colonialist legacies and how they have served to manipulate both cultural and personal identity.

Through the deconstructive techniques of cutting, shredding, stitching, binding, and erasing both subject and support, Kaphar reconstructs new codes and modalities, reckoning on Black possibilities. In Yet Another Fight for Remembrance (2014), he used thick white brushstrokes to obscure the gesturing bodies of a group of African American men in the “Hands up, don’t shoot” position, and then repainted their outlines in black to reassert their formal presence. Thus the painting process itself became the embodiment of the ongoing struggle for social visibility and recognition. During his 2017 TED Talk, Kaphar performed, onstage, the whitewashing of his large-scale painting Shifting the Gaze (2017). Based on Frans Hals’s Family Group in a Landscape (1645–48), which portrays a wealthy Dutch family and their African servant,  Kaphar’s version eclipsed the family group with white paint, shifting attention entirely to the presence of this young servant.

Kaphar’s art addresses salient social and political concerns, but it also springs from his own life story. For example, his encounter with his estranged father, Jerome, has led to an ongoing multimedia exploration of the criminal justice system called The Jerome Project (2014–). This series of portraits began with Kaphar’s online discovery of the mug shots of ninety-seven African American men who shared his father’s first and last names. He paints gilded portraits of each man in the style of Byzantine devotional icons, and then dips them in tar. Initially, the depth to which each painting was immersed in tar corresponded to the time that each subject had spent behind bars; in later paintings, this has increased to represent the longer-term implications of social silencing that results from their incarceration.

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Fairs, Events & Announcements

Still from “Titus Kaphar: 2018 MacArthur Fellow”

Video

Titus Kaphar

In this video produced on the occasion of his 2018 MacArthur “genius” grant, Titus Kaphar speaks about the recurring themes in his work, his use of layering techniques, and the presence of multiple narratives. He also introduces NXTHVN, which he founded with Jason Price and Jonathan Brand in 2015. The nonprofit arts hub, located in the Dixwell neighborhood of New Haven, Connecticut, offers fellowships, residencies, and other professional development opportunities to artists, curators, and students.

Still from “Titus Kaphar: 2018 MacArthur Fellow”

Titus Kaphar in his studio with his painting The Aftermath (2020), New Haven, Connecticut, 2020. Artwork © Titus Kaphar. Photo: John Lucas

Artist Spotlight

Titus Kaphar

May 6–12, 2020

Painter, sculptor, filmmaker, and installation artist Titus Kaphar confronts history by dismantling classical structures and styles of visual representation in Western art in order to subvert them. Dislodging entrenched narratives from their status as “past” so as to understand and estimate their impact on the present, he exposes the conceptual underpinnings of contested nationalist histories and colonialist legacies and how they have served to manipulate both cultural and personal identity.

Titus Kaphar in his studio with his painting The Aftermath (2020), New Haven, Connecticut, 2020. Artwork © Titus Kaphar. Photo: John Lucas

Titus Kaphar, Impressions of Liberty, 2017, installation view, Maclean House, Princeton University, New Jersey © Titus Kaphar. Photo: Princeton University Art Museum, New Jersey

Commission

Titus Kaphar
Impressions of Liberty

Titus Kaphar’s public sculpture Impressions of Liberty (2017) was commissioned by the Princeton University Art Museum, New Jersey, in conjunction with the Princeton & Slavery Project. Kaphar’s work responds to archival records unearthed by the project, documenting an auction of six African American slaves as part of the estate of Samuel Finley, fifth president of Princeton University. Featuring portraits of an African American man, woman, and child etched in glass, framing a monumental bust of Finley carved into wood as a sculptural absence, the sculpture raises questions about who is remembered and who is invisible in our accounts of history, both written and visual. Impressions of Liberty was installed at Maclean House in Princeton, New Jersey, from November 6 to December 18, 2017.

Titus Kaphar, Impressions of Liberty, 2017, installation view, Maclean House, Princeton University, New Jersey © Titus Kaphar. Photo: Princeton University Art Museum, New Jersey

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Museum Exhibitions

Titus Kaphar, Language of the Forgotten, 2018, installation view, MASS MoCA, North Adams, Massachusetts © Titus Kaphar. Photo: Jonathan Brand

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Titus Kaphar
Language of the Forgotten

September 11, 2018–March 30, 2020
MASS MoCA, North Adams, Massachusetts
massmoca.org

Through cutting, bending, sculpting, and remixing historical paintings and sculptures, Titus Kaphar often shifts the focus of their narratives to create new works that exist between fiction and quotationHis sculpture Language of the Forgotten depicts a monumental bust of Thomas Jefferson, carved as an inversion into wood, his profile immediately recognizable. Framed against this are portraits of figures etched into glass, standing in for the hundreds of thousands of untold narratives about usurped liberty—most famously brought to light in Jefferson’s case through the story of Sally Hemings, an enslaved woman believed to be the mother of his children. The work underscores Kaphar’s interest in history, in particular the question of whose stories get told and which ones get left out. 

Titus Kaphar, Language of the Forgotten, 2018, installation view, MASS MoCA, North Adams, Massachusetts © Titus Kaphar. Photo: Jonathan Brand

Titus Kaphar, Forgotten Soldier, 2019 © Titus Kaphar

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Titus Kaphar in
Forgotten Soldier

June 29, 2019–March 22, 2020
American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, Virginia
www.historyisfun.org

Forgotten Soldier explored personal stories of enslaved and free African Americans on both sides of the American Revolution and their contributions toward establishing an independent nation. Documents, artifacts, and artworks, including a new work by Titus Kaphar, traced the experiences of African American soldiers who took part in the American cause for a free nation or took up arms for British forces in hopes of obtaining their own freedom.

Titus Kaphar, Forgotten Soldier, 2019 © Titus Kaphar

Titus Kaphar, Seeing Through Time 2, 2018 © Titus Kaphar

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Titus Kaphar in
Suffering from Realness

March 31, 2019–February 2, 2020
MASS MoCA, North Adams, Massachusetts
massmoca.org

Suffering from Realness explored the politics of representation and the ways in which artists use the body to grasp at and recenter the “aura of realness” in an age of uncertainty. The artists in this exhibition examine the human condition from all sides, creating works in various mediums that are both personal and universal, addressing racism, violence, gender equality, the politicized body of wartime, the anxious body, the complexity of responsibility, and the future. Work by Titus Kaphar was included.

Titus Kaphar, Seeing Through Time 2, 2018 © Titus Kaphar

Installation view, Redaction: A Project by Titus Kaphar and Reginald Dwayne Betts, MoMA PS1, New York, March 31–May 5, 2019. Artwork © Titus Kaphar and Reginald Dwayne Betts. Photo: Matthew Septimus

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Redaction
A Project by Titus Kaphar and Reginald Dwayne Betts

March 31–May 5, 2019
MoMA PS1, New York
www.moma.org

Throughout their careers, Titus Kaphar and memoirist, poet, and attorney Reginald Dwayne Betts have used their varied mediums to confront the abuses of the criminal justice system. Redaction brought together poetry crafted by Betts from redacted legal documents with Kaphar’s etched portraits of incarcerated individuals, blending the voices of poet and artist with those of plaintiffs and prosecutors, reclaiming lost narratives and drawing attention to some of the many individuals whose lives have been impacted by mass incarceration.

Installation view, Redaction: A Project by Titus Kaphar and Reginald Dwayne Betts, MoMA PS1, New York, March 31–May 5, 2019. Artwork © Titus Kaphar and Reginald Dwayne Betts. Photo: Matthew Septimus

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