Meshing historical narratives with his own, Kaphar’s work condenses the activity of decades into single objects. His paintings/sculptures are constructions built from artifacts of art history. Kaphar creates these paintings that he then manipulates using modern and contemporary modes of analysis, deconstruction, and reconstruction, to question the original contexts of the figures and re-present history. By white washing, collaging, crumpling, ripping, cutting, and sewing, Kaphar reconstructs objects from the canon of art history. In some works, paintings are stacked, one on the top of the other. In others, intentionally hidden truths are uncovered by cutting out figures in the canvas and revealing the bare frame beneath.
Art is treated as artifact’something made by man with historical significance. Crumpled, framed paintings appear to have been found in forgotten ruins. A crate-enclosed portrait is visible only through slotted spaces. The paintings speak to concealed family secrets, while the crate symbolizes the maintenance of these histories as well as the conservation of artifacts. The distortion of truth over time is inevitable, and one can only piece together information to unearth it.
"I find Kaphar’s painted and material interventions deeply powerful as they collapse and complicate traditional reads of Western art history and culture."
"Titus Kaphar uses oil paint to masterfully render copies of 18th and 19th century portraits, which he then cleverly manipulates as a form of fascinating art historical and cultural commentary. Through these blended layers of history and visual culture the works initiate a quite heavy historical dialogue steeped in issues of race and society—though with touches of the absurd at times. The canvases, transformed by Kaphar into sculptures, engage viewers on so many levels, and the end result is very powerful."