For Titus Kaphar’s first exhibition at Gagosian Gallery in NYC, From A Tropical Space, he has created moving scenes of loss, with children cut out of the paintings. While the cutouts and vivid colors are the first things that get noticed, on a longer look you can see that the women in these paintings are not just missing children, but often pieces of their own bodies are affected. Arms, a hand fading away or turning blue, a leg with only one sock and shoe- these women are losing more than what has been cut away from them, they are losing parts of themselves.
From the press release-
A painter, sculptor, filmmaker, and installation artist, Kaphar reexamines American history by deconstructing existing representations and styles through his own formal innovations. His practice seeks to dislodge history from its status as “past” in order to understand its continuing impact on the present. Using materials including tar, glass, and rusted nails—together with highly refined oil painting—and employing techniques such as cutting, shredding, stitching, binding, and erasing, he reworks canonical art historical codes and conventions. And by uncovering the conceptual and narrative underpinnings of certain source images, he explores the manipulation of cultural and personal identity as a central thematic concern while inventing new narratives.
While much of Kaphar’s work begins with an exhaustive study of pre-twentieth-century master painting techniques, From a Tropical Space sees him wield these various methods to create an emotionally saturated visual landscape that is entirely contemporary. Just as artists, through time, have translated the fraught and mercurial sociopolitical contexts in which they operate into new and often radical aesthetic modes, so do the pervasive social and cultural anxieties of the world in which we find ourselves resonate throughout Kaphar’s new work.
In From a Tropical Space, Kaphar presents a haunting narrative of Black motherhood wherein collective fear and trauma crescendo in the disappearance of children, literalized through the physical excision of their images from the canvases themselves. The absence of each juvenile figure—whether seated in a stroller or held in a woman’s arms—reveals only the blank gallery wall beneath. The intense coloration of the suburban environments in which the figures are set only heightens a pervasive tension—these are images for uncertain times. Included in the exhibition is Analogous Colors (2020). Demonstrating further the broader resonance of Kaphar’s recent work, the painting was featured on the cover of the June 15 issue of Time magazine, which included a report on the protests sparked by George Floyd’s killing at the hands of Minneapolis police.
This exhibition closes 12/19/20.