Titus Kaphar was born in 1976 in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He currently lives and works between New York and Connecticut. His artworks interact with the history of art by appropriating its styles and mediums.
Kaphar said of his work: “I’ve always been fascinated by history: art history, American history, world history, individual history – how history is written, recorded, distorted, exploited, reimagined, and understood. In my work I explore the materiality of reconstructive history. I paint and I sculpt, often borrowing from the historical canon, and then alter the work in some way. I cut, crumple, shroud, shred, stitch, tar, twist, bind, erase, break, tear, and turn the paintings and sculptures I create, reconfiguring them into works that nod to hidden narratives and begin to reveal unspoken truths about the nature of history. Open areas become active absences, walls enter into the portraits, stretcher bars are exposed, and structures that are typically invisible underneath, behind, or inside the canvas are laid bare, revealing the interiors of the work. In so doing, my aim is to perform what I critique, to reveal something of what has been lost, and to investigate the power of a rewritten history.”
In a 2009 review in Art in America, Michele Carlson wrote, “Kaphar's practice is more than a modernist revision or a redux of the dichotomy between painter and painting. Instead, he creates new historiographic artifacts built from the physical residues and inadequacies of the past. There is a sense these works are a deeply personal response to imagined memories turned into unrecognizable histories long ago. Perhaps they are a nod to collective histories yet to be discovered, or a reconciliation for those that never will.”
Kaphar received an MFA from the Yale School of Art, and is the distinguished recipient of the Gwendolyn Knight and Jacob Lawrence Fellowship. His work has been included in solo and group exhibitions at Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah, GA, the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY and the Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA. His work is included in the collections of the New Britain Museum of American Art, New Britain, CT, the Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY. In late 2014, TIME magazine commissioned Kaphar to create an artwork in response to protests in Ferguson, Missouri.
Kaphar’s ambitious installation, The Vesper Project has toured several venues including the Lois and Richard Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Arts, Cincinnati, OH, and the Katzen Arts Center at American University, Washington, DC.
The Vesper Project “is a culmination of an intense five-year engagement with the lost storylines of the Vesper family, the project was ‘birthed in a state of extended disbelief, according to Kaphar. As the artist’s muses, the members of the Vesper family and their histories are intertwined with Kaphar’s autobiographical details, and layered with wide-based cultural triggers of identity and truth in the context of historical accounting.” (Artinfo.com, 2013)
Jack Shainman Gallery has represented Kaphar since 2014. His most recent two-part solo exhibitions at Jack Shainman Gallery were in 2015 and 2016.