UVA Arts, University of Virginia

Vol 09 Winter 18 Library
Historical Nonfiction, 2018 (Credit: Titus Kaphar)
Studio Art

A Timely Visit from Titus Kaphar

Acclaimed artist Titus Kaphar, a recipient of one of this year’s MacArthur ‘Genius’ Grants, will be coming to Grounds for a multi-day residency focused on his work relating to history, representation, race, and memory this coming February. When asked why he is working to bring Titus Kaphar to UVA, Director of Studio Art Bill Wylie said, Since white nationalists rallied in Charlottesville in 2017, there has been great interest in addressing issues of race, identity and engagement in our community. That rally, and its aftermath, focused a lot of attention on historical representations and misrepresentations and how they continue to influence our current experience. Titus Kaphar’s work is devoted to addressing these questions and beginning thehard work of amending that history.” Kaphar will give a public lecture, in addition to participating in classes and meeting with students and faculty from the Studio Art, Art History, American Studies, Media Studies departments, as well as the Carter-Woodson Institute. The centerpiece of his visit will be a public lecture that centers around his work reconfiguring history to include African-American subjects and his recent commission addressing the debate on public monuments – and the related issues around race and identity that were inspired by the national discussions that followed the events in Charlottesville. 

His artworks interact with history by appropriating its styles and mediums, mixing the work of Classic and Renaissance painters, creating formal games and new tales between fiction and quotation. His works are held in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Yale University Art gallery, and the Virginia Museum of Fine Art, as well as numerous other museums.Kaphar was commissioned in 2014 by Time Magazine to paint a response to the Ferguson Uprising. Kaphar was recently commissioned to create a sculpture as part of Princeton University’s The Princeton and Slavery Project, titled Impressions of Liberty. He saw this project as a means to wade into the debate. “I’m trying to begin a conversation about public sculpture and monuments, and the ways they impact our psyches,” he recently said. He believes the current discourse is binary and lacking in nuance. “My proposal,” he said, as reported by Artsy, “the new line of thinking I am trying to insert into the narrative and dialogue, is that rather than just taking these things down, we can engage contemporary artists to make work that actually pushes back against these public monuments.” 

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