Sunday, May 31, 2009

Titus Kaphar

Titus Kaphar is a young, upcoming artist with works on display at the Seattle Art Museum in an exhibition called “History in the Making.” See

Kaphar finds European and American portrait paintings from the 1700’s and 1800’s and repaints them, with a twist, to emphasize, especially, slavery and the history of black people in general. For example, he takes the famous picture of George Washington Crossing the Delaware and turns George upside-down, with a new, brown-faced head, so that the composite resembles a giant playing card. The intent is to comment on George Washington’s ambivalence about slavery (he was a slave-owner), as if to say, George, what kind of a game were you playing?

I especially like Kaphar’s technique of cutting out images from his paintings, and either leaving the cutout completely blank, or letting the cut-out canvas image droop to the floor. It is a startling result.

Kaphar is the first recipient of the Gwendolyn Knight and Jacob Lawrence Fellowship, awarded by SAM to nurture black artists showing great early promise. The award is named after Seattle residents and artists Knight and Lawrence.

Kaphar’s work is at the SAM through September 6, 2009.

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