Titus Kaphar - New Now New York Tuesday, September 28, 2021 | Phillips
  • The Jerome Project


    Jerome X began with a personal investigation. Searching for his estranged father Jerome, Titus Kaphar scanned records for any information relating to his whereabouts. Kaphar’s search was unsuccessful, but it led to an important breakthrough: combing through incarceration records, Kaphar discovered scores of mugshots of men who shared his father’s first and last name. The search blossomed into The Jerome Project, a years-long interest in and investigation of the American prison system. Kaphar considered “[his] father’s name as a kind of a doorway into this bigger, broader issue of the Prison Industrial Complex,” and his personal research project evolved into an artistic endeavor with the debut of The Jerome Project at the Studio Museum in Harlem in 2014.1 Jerome X, one of the panels exhibited at the Studio Museum, is a taciturn talisman of the incongruities of the modern criminal justice system.

    "That moment of confusion where you are trying to manage the reality of beauty and incarceration is part of the project’s goal." —Titus Kaphar

    The present work, Jerome X, is counted among Kaphar’s first series within The Jerome Project, comprised of 65 portraits painted from a unique “Jerome” mugshot Kaphar encountered in his search. Though their sitters differ, each portrait is obscured by dense layers of black tar, some covering areas of the sitter’s face proportionate to the amount of his life that man had been incarcerated. The portraits are as moving as they are haunting; Kaphar describes their effect as “symbolic in communicating the varied impact jail, prison, probation or parole has on millions of people in this country.”2 The gilded backdrops contrast with the dark tar, creating a shocking juxtaposition of material and meaning, elevating the sitters to the realm of religious icons—or martyrs of the contemporary criminal justice system. Jerome X is a profound fusion of Kaphar’s personal history with his professional background, comprising a body of work critics identify as one of his best.

    "The act of painting itself becomes a fight to remember the names of all the young black men and women who were taken too soon. A fight to remember that change is possible." —Titus Kaphar

    Kaphar’s work often questions the nature of history and its representations in the past and present, but Jerome X forcefully shifts the focus to the contemporary by bringing to light the injustices of the criminal justice system. Both soft-spoken and forceful, Jerome X implores viewers to reconsider the realities of contemporary incarceration and its effects on the African American community. Simultaneously, for those personally affected by the inequities explicated in the work, Kaphar is confident that “the work says I get you, I understand where you are coming from, and I am coming from the same place.”3

    1 Bill Keller, “Titus Kaphar on Art, Race and Justice”, The Marshall Project, February 1, 2017, online
    2 Lindsey Davis, “Dismantling History: An Interview with Titus Kaphar”, Art21 Magazine, December 2, 2015, online
    3 Antwaun Sargent, “Artist Titus Kaphar on His New Solo Show and Unarmed Black Men in America”, Vice, January 15, 2015, online

    • Provenance

      Jack Shainman Gallery, New York
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      New York, The Studio Museum in Harlem, Titus Kaphar: The Jerome Project, November 13, 2014–March 8, 2015

    • Literature

      Laura C. Mallonee, "Portraits of Prisoners in Gold Leaf and Tar," Hyperallergic, March 2, 2015, online (The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, 2014–2015, installation view illustrated)
      Natalie Renee, ed., Titus Kaphar: Language of the Forgotten, New York, 2018 (illustrated, p. 54; The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, 2014–2015, installation view illustrated, p. 57)

    • 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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Jerome X

oil, gold leaf and tar on panel
10 1/2 x 7 in. (26.7 x 17.8 cm)
Executed in 2014.

Full Cataloguing

$20,000 - 30,000 

Sold for $100,800

Contact Specialist

Patrizia Koenig

Head of New Now Sale

212 940 1279


New Now

New York Auction 28 September 2021