Titus Kaphar’s Paintings Subvert the Portraiture Canon

by Elizabeth MaskaskyPosted on

In his bold appropriations of 18th and 19th century Western paintings, Titus Kaphar presents the iconic ghosts of our art historic past as if they were characters in a novel, as images that progress and interact with one another across a continuum of time. Kaphar copies works from the classic American and European portrait canon — think Thomas Gainsborough — and then stages direct interventions on the canvas by way of slashing, cutting, pasting and whitewashing. In some portraits, whole figures have been “deleted” and appear only in white silhouette, while in others, Kaphar has covered their bodies with bunched up canvas so that they appear mummified, dead, silenced. The materials Kaphar employs to alter or add to existing narratives — for example, the black tar that’s smudged across the surface of otherwise tranquil landscapes — are highly evocative with a complex history of their own. Titus Kaphar’s work will be exhibited with Catherine Clark Gallery at Miami Project this upcoming Basel Week, December 3-8.

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