Gagosian is pleased to present New Alte̲rs: Reworking Devotion, an exhibition of new paintings and sculptures by Titus Kaphar. Held at the gallery’s Grosvenor Hill location, it marks the artist’s first exhibition in London. COLONELGARGLE (2008), a steel sculpture by John Chamberlain, is also included, establishing a visual dialogue with Kaphar’s work.
In paintings, sculptures, and installations, Kaphar examines the history of representation by altering the work’s supports. In doing so, he reveals oft unspoken social and political truths, dislodging history from its status as “past” to underscore its contemporary relevance. New Alte̲rs: Reworking Devotion stresses the heterogeneity of Kaphar’s process by incorporating all the techniques he has employed to date into a single presentation that emphasizes the images’ surreality and strangeness. It is characterized by a layering of imagery and form, and by a strategic disregard for the consistency of ground and space. Shifts in scale turn some figures into miniatures and others into giants, while the use of gilded frames hints at a dedication to something beyond the physical.
What, asks Kaphar, might it mean to produce a contemporary devotional structure within a secular art world—especially in the context of a European art historical tradition dominated by religious imagery and architecture—and what parallels might be drawn between artistic and spiritual practices? Further, what are the implications of resurrecting characters from the past and inserting them into environments and situations that would be unrecognizable to them? By incorporating painted black-and-white reproductions of American Civil War–era daguerreotypes into several paintings here, Kaphar recalls a period that was critical for defining freedom in the United States.
New E̲nunciation (2021) represents a shift in scale from the earlier, smaller collage that inspired it, reimagining the biblical tale of the Annunciation, in which an angel visits the Virgin Mary to tell her that she will give birth to Jesus. Excavating images from his personal archive, Kaphar recasts the scene’s characters to show this “glorious message” being delivered to a Black worker in front of a broken-down car, surrounded by a field full of enslaved individuals. Where the combination of references to nineteenth-century photography and Renaissance painting built into this work establishes a complex material and conceptual stratification, another canvas, Saints of De-Industry (2021), employs a very different setting. Here, Kaphar layers images of two figures and a helicopter over a view of postindustrial Detroit. A central bust half-covered in black tar and a man who steps over the border of the work’s frame both represent the workers who were vital to the city’s construction, but who suffered the most in its latter-day decline.
In sculptures such as Shroud of Washington (2021) and Sindon (2022), Kaphar combines representational painting with object making, investigating formal strategies suggested in part by the work of Sam Gilliam, Lucio Fontana, and Robert Rauschenberg—all artists who have themselves deconstructed the canvas en route to a disruption of the image and its contexts. In Shroud of Washington, Kaphar’s painted reproduction of John Trumbull’s General George Washington at Trenton (1792) has been removed from its stretchers to cloak a life-size female figure. Dressed in military uniform, Washington’s distorted image smothers the woman beneath it, underscoring the former president’s problematic legacy. Kaphar also makes explicit reference to Chamberlain by including the artist’s COLONELGARGLE, a work in painted and chrome-plated steel that employs a similar crumpling technique.
Presenting the past as a still influential component of the present, Kaphar demands that viewers become active producers of history, addressing the complex legacies of previous antagonisms to consider the notion of deliverance. Is it possible, he asks, to emancipate the pictured individuals from the tragedy of their captured moments?
NXTHVN is a new national arts model that empowers emerging artists and curators of color through education and access. Through intergenerational mentorship, professional development, and cross-sector collaboration, NXTHVN accelerates professional careers in the arts. Join Titus Kaphar and Jason Price on a tour of the organization’s headquarters in New Haven, Connecticut. They discuss the founding and vision for this singular arts space.
Titus Kaphar: From a Tropical Space
Join the artist in his studio in New Haven, Connecticut, where he speaks about his latest paintings.
Titus Kaphar: Can Beauty Open Our Hearts to Difficult Conversations?
In this TED talk, presented during the sweeping protests against racism and police violence following the killing of George Floyd, Titus Kaphar describes how the beauty of a painting can draw the viewer in and allow difficult conversations to emerge. Kaphar discusses his own work and shares the idea behind NXTHVN, a new national arts model he founded to empower artists of color through education and access.
Seeing the Child: Braiding possibility
Titus Kaphar and Tochi Onyebuchi present an excerpt from their short story “Seeing the Child,” a poetic rumination on Kaphar’s latest body of work, From a Tropical Space (2019–).
Titus Kaphar: In the Studio
Jacoba Urist reports on a recent trip to the artist’s studio in New Haven, Connecticut, to see his new body of work, From a Tropical Space (2019–). She writes on the emotional and sensory impact of these paintings and considers their singular place in Titus Kaphar’s oeuvre.
Titus Kaphar: Intricate Illusion
Bridget R. Cooks investigates the aesthetic and narrative conventions deployed by the artist, demonstrating how his paintings force provocative confrontations with history through complex modes of depiction.
London Gallery Weekend
Damien Hirst, Cristina Iglesias, Titus Kaphar, Richard Prince
May 13–15, 2022
As part of London Gallery Weekend, Gagosian will have extended hours at all London locations, including the Gagosian Shop in Burlington Arcade, where visitors can browse Richard Prince artist’s books, posters, and other merchandise as part of his Shop takeover. Visitors can view the exhibitions Cristina Iglesias at Davies Street, which opens on Saturday, May 14; Titus Kaphar: New Alte̲rs: Reworking Devotion at Grosvenor Hill, before it closes on May 15; and Damien Hirst: Natural History at Britannia Street.
A range of activities will be offered, including exhibition tours and drop-in drawing hours for visitors of all ages, in addition to treats from Connaught Patisserie and Treats Club. In its second year, London Gallery Weekend is a free annual event featuring over 150 of the city’s leading contemporary art galleries coming together to celebrate culture and creativity.
Installation view, Titus Kaphar: New Alte̲rs: Reworking Devotion, Gagosian, Grosvenor Hill, London, March 17–May 15, 2022. Artwork © Titus Kaphar. Photo: Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd
Extended through September 11, 2021
Curated by Antwaun Sargent
June 24–September 11, 2021
555 West 24th Street, New York