Titus Kaphar: Black Artist Spotlight
Titus Kaphar and Black Voices
As we reach the middle of Black History Month, another visual artist spotlight is of importance: Titus Kaphar. Kaphar, a painter and sculptor, was originally born in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
He has exhibited and installed his work all over the country, and has become one of the leading Black Male visual artists in recent years. Kaphar, a MacArthur, or “genius grant,” fellow, and an artistic innovator, is spearheading a new wave of meaning for Black history and the Black experience.
Kaphar’s stakes in supporting other artists, and curators of color guided him in founding NXTHVN (Next Haven), a “new national arts model that empowers emerging artists and curators of color through education and access.” The non-profit uses “intergenerational mentorships” as a means of professional development and career enrichment or acceleration.
His sweeping canvases are powerful in medium and in content. Kaphar uniquely turns his paintings into sorts of sculptures, as he “cuts, crumples, shrouds, shreds, stitches, tars, twists, binds, erases, breaks, [and] tears.”
These forms of removal have become his trademark. Pieces range in analyzing themes of African American history, Black motherhood, and other themes pertaining to the contemporary Black experience. A recent exhibit, titled Tropical Space, employs Kaphar’s cut out canvas medium, alongside traditional oil paint. Back in 2020, the exhibit was displayed at the Gagosian Gallery in New York City. The Gallery also represents and supports NXTHVN, Kaphar’s nonprofit art hub.
Works like The Aftermath, Braiding Possibilities, both pictured below, and Analogous Colors (featured image) (2020) are all a part of Tropical Space. The vibrant hues, and hyper realistic painting style render these images surreal. In their sensational colors lie deeper rivers of pain. The children are cut, literally, out of the entire canvas, with the only thing remaining a void of where a small life should exist.
Black artists like Kaphar are leading the way to dismantling what has intrinsically remained a Eurocentric history and reality. Kaphar’s paintings don’t just subvert Western standards of art and representation– they encourage the subversion of Western ideals of supremacy and justice. His pieces address the social landscape of brutality against Black lives we exist in today, and it is work like his that we must run to in times of inspiration and protest.