Titus Kaphar - Summer Wave Paris Thursday, August 3, 2023 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    MARUANI MERCIER Gallery, Brussels
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Brussels, MARUANI MERCIER Gallery, Titus Kaphar: The Evidence of Things Unseen, 17 October – 28 November 2020

  • Catalogue Essay

    ‘As much as we try to speak to the facts of a historical incident, we often alter those facts, sometimes drastically, through the retelling itself. Understanding this has given me the freedom to manipulate, and change historical images in a way that recharges them for me. Knowing that artists throughout time who have attempted to retell history have always embraced, whether consciously or unconsciously, a degree of fiction, in order to achieve the sentiment of the facts is liberating.’ - Titus Kaphar

    In his typically bold and unapologetic approach, Titus Kaphar repositions African-American subjects within traditional art historical frameworks. His multi-disciplinary practice sees him physically creating and reconstructing works through cutting, stitching, overpainting and draping, techniques that subvert traditional Renaissance and Baroque iconography. Through his manipulation of the physical medium, Kaphar’s works force the viewer to confront their own preconceived perceptions of Western figurative painting by including a variety of narratives and perspectives, dismantling entrenched notions of artistic value and necessitating a prompt reconsideration of Black representation in the art historical canon.

    Executed in 2020, Untitled depicts Christ – identifiable with a thorn crown and halo – set against a picturesque landscape reminiscent of Renaissance masters, but covered with oil and tar, leaving only a faceless, opaque silhouette in his place. Visually very powerful, this technique is also a striking metaphor for systemic oppression, and through this jarring juxtaposition, Kaphar addresses the issue of misrepresentation in Renaissance Christian imagery. Untitled was featured in Kaphar’s 2020 exhibition The Evidence of Things Unseen, where it was exhibited withing the decrepit interior of a 19th Century deconsecrated church in Brussels. Within this poignant setting, the work adopts another layer of meaning, as Kaphar’s contemporary retelling of traditional Christian iconography is brought abruptly and saliently into the realm of a religious institution from the Northern Renaissance.

    Titus Kaphar lives and works in New Haven, Connecticut, and received an MFA from the Yale School of Art. His work has been included in solo exhibitions at Seattle Art Museum, The Studio Museum in Harlem, MoMA PS1 and National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC, amongst others, and his work is included in the collections of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville; the 21C Museum Collection; Detroit Institute of Arts; The Art Institute of Chicago; The Museum of Modern Art, Brooklyn Museum, Whitney Museum of American Art and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY; and Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, amongst others.

  • Artist Biography

    Titus Kaphar

    Titus Kaphar’s work questions the nature of history and its representations in the past and today. By altering the materiality of his paintings, sculptures, and installations, Kaphar subverts conventional understandings of historical representations and exposes the uncomfortable and troubling realities of the racism in America’s past. Kaphar’s examinations of historical representations and the omissions of such representations encourage viewers to question their own relationships to history and understandings of the past. He strives to dislodge history from the past and to promote its relevance in the world today. 

    Kaphar’s work has received considerable acclaim, and his paintings have graced two covers of Time magazine. He is the recipient of a 2018 MacArthur Fellowship and his work is represented in such institutions as the Brooklyn Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, and the Perez Art Museum Miami. He lives and works in New Haven, Connecticut.

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Untitled Tar Piece

signed and dated 'Kaphar 20' on the overlap
oil and tar on canvas
152 x 152 cm (59 7/8 x 59 7/8 in.)
Executed in 2020.

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