Gagosian Quarterly

May 10, 2020

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, Braiding possibility, 2020, oil on canvas, 83 ¾ × 68 inches (212.7 × 172.7 cm)

Titus Kaphar, Braiding possibility, 2020, oil on canvas, 83 ¾ × 68 inches (212.7 × 172.7 cm)

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. Photo: John Lucas

Tochi Onyebuchi

Tochi Onyebuchi is the author of Beasts Made of Night, its sequel Crown of Thunder, War Girls, and his adult fiction debut Riot Baby, published by in January 2020. He has graduated from Yale University, New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, Columbia Law School, and L’institut d’études politiques with a master’s degree in global business law. Photo: Christina Orlando

If I rush, then I’ll have to start over.

I’ll have to untangle and double back, and more time will have been lost. If I focus—focus on this scalp that glows golden before me, focus on the geometrical patterns I’m making out of this hair, focus on the message trapped in these patterns like parchment in a storm-tossed bottle—then maybe we’ll make it out in time.

In the book, Pa’s saying to me: Hey, baby girl. Tell me what you want. You want the moon?

She doesn’t know what’s waiting for her. Even as the vanishing happens. Already, her shoes have lost their laces and tongues. They’re blocks of magenta on her feet. The vanishing has done the same to one of my sneakers. The other is creased and shadowed and lovingly lined. Like her.

She’s not scared, and I want to wrap this moment in my arms. I want to fit it as snugly between my knees as I fit her. I want to braid a warning into its hair.

You want me to tie this rope together and throw it up high in the sky? Pa’s asking me.

The creeping continues. The folds of my dress undo themselves. The fabric flattens.

Get that rope nice and tight around the moon.

I don’t know what this thing is that is taking her from me. But I’m braiding and watching her read about a father lassoing the moon for his daughter and hoping that these things are enough of a message for her when we are apart. That she will be able to decode these things and know that she is not alone.

Now, when I get you that moon, what are you going to do with it?

The book is losing its texture. The moon on its cover has vanished.

You’re gonna eat it?

She’s still here. With me. Sitting on the ledge colored green. The child has soaked up all of the sun so that all around her is deeply saturated color—the smudged emerald coloring the door and the floor and the plastic chair against the wall; the red of the portal to elsewhere; the row of blue stripes cutting diagonally across the door.

Well, if you swallow the moon, it’ll sit in your belly. Then it’ll break apart, then it’ll become like air inside you.

She has the cosmos in her. Wherever she’s going, she’s taking the universe with her.

I’m losing her.

It’ll shoot through your toes and your fingertips.

This is what it is like to live on the other side of the vanishing. To lose what was loved. Before, I was the lost thing, and now she must be the lost thing.

I’m almost done with her hair.

The moon will glow in your hair.

My fingers thread through absence.

Excerpted from “Seeing the Child,” a short story to appear in the Fall 2020 edition of Gagosian Quarterly; artwork © Titus Kaphar; text © Titus Kaphar and Tochi Onyebuchi

Titus Kaphar in his studio, painting

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, Father and Son, 2010, oil on canvas, 59 ⅞ × 48 inches (152 × 122 cm). Photo: Jon Lam Photography, courtesy Friedman Benda

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.

The artist Titus Kaphar giving a TED talk

Titus Kaphar: Can Art Amend History?

Join Titus Kaphar as he talks about making paintings and sculptures that wrestle with the struggles of the past while speaking to the diversity and advances of the present. Working onstage, he points to the narratives coded in the language of art history as he creates a new painting, demonstrating how shifting our focus can prompt us to ask questions and confront unspoken truths.

The Nature of Mark Grotjahn

The Nature of Mark Grotjahn

Michael Auping writes about the origins of Mark Grotjahn’s Capri paintings and their relationship with nature and landscape.

David Reed, #714, 2014–19, acrylic, oil, and alkyd on polyester.

David Reed

David Reed and Katharina Grosse met at Reed’s New York studio in the fall of 2019 to talk about his newest paintings, the temporal aspects of both artists’ practice, and some of their mutual inspirations.

Graham Nash at home, San Francisco, 1972. An M. C. Escher print from his collection can be seen on the floor to the right. Photo: Joel Bernstein

Graham Nash

Raymond Foye offers a window into his long-standing friendship with Graham Nash, guiding us through the legendary musician’s evolving interest in art and the visual world.

Setsuko, Paris, 2019

Work in Progress

Setsuko Klossowska de Rola and Benoît Astier de Villatte, of the Astier de Villatte atelier in Paris, first met at the Académie de France in Rome’s Villa Medici, where Setsuko lived when her late husband, the painter Balthus, was the school’s director. Here they discuss Setsuko’s newest body of terra-cotta works, produced at Astier de Villatte, with Gagosian’s Elsa Favreau.

Still from La Jetée (1962), directed by Chris Marker.

Five Films: Sarah Sze

Sarah Sze writes about five films that live as richly evocative images in her visual memory.

Cuban dancers at the Palladium Ballroom, New York, 1954.

Overture: Ridding the Passing Moments of Their Fat

Art historian Robert Farris Thompson has maintained a passion for Afro-Cuban dance and music since experiencing, in 1944, a conga line in his hometown of El Paso. Here, he tracks the spiritual, linguistic, and musical roots of mambo.

Stanley Whitney, Naples, 1997.

Stanley Whitney: The Ruins

For American painter Stanley Whitney, Italy remains a central and enduring source of inspiration. Matthew Jeffrey Abrams, the author of a new monograph on the artist, reflects on the profound and far-reaching influence of Italian art and architecture on Whitney’s art.

Georg Baselitz, Ohne Titel (nach Pontormo) (Untitled [after Pontormo]), 1961.

Baselitz Bildung

On the occasion of a career-spanning exhibition at the Gallerie dell’Accademia, Venice, Richard Calvocoressi tracks the evolution of Georg Baselitz’s development from his early education in East Germany to his revelatory trip to Florence, in 1965, and beyond.

A portrait of Betty Parsons surrounded by art.

Game Changer
Betty Parsons

Wyatt Allgeier pays homage to the renowned gallerist and artist Betty Parsons (1900–1982).