Titus Kaphar - ferguson-protesters

LIKE SO MANY OTHER AMERICANS, artist Titus Kaphar has been struggling with how to respond to the shooting of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Mo., the choking death of Eric Garner in New York, and the countless other incidents involving police officers killing unarmed Black men and youth across the country. Ultimately, he expressed himself by painting.

Commissioned by Time magazine to contribute a cover image depicting the Ferguson Protesters, who were under consideration for its Person of the Year issue, Kaphar invoked a creative conceit that has served him well in the past. He painted over an image of a crowd of protesters using bold, slashing strokes of white paint. The white washing, itself resembling an act of defiance as it was carried out (see video below), symbolically reads as the erasure of the Black male, the silencing of a community and the public at-large, and the specter of the criminal justice system. The image is obscured significantly and also exposed in new ways.

Blending breaking news and fine art, the oil painting stands 5-feet high and is titled “Yet Another Fight for Remembrance.”

“Over the last few years I’ve found myself immersed in criminal justice research. I’ve been trying to make paintings that speak to the gravity of the situation,” Kaphar told Time. “Honestly, it feels beyond me. What I make ends up feeling more like catharsis than communication.”

“Over the last few years I’ve found myself immersed in criminal justice research. I’ve been trying to make paintings that speak to the gravity of the situation.” — Titus Kaphar, Time magazine

EVERY YEAR TIME MAGAZINE turns to artists and photographers to capture the personalities and symbols it chooses as Person of the Year. For 2014, the five candidates were three powerful men—Russian President Vladmir Putin; Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani; and Chinese entrepreneur and founder of Alibaba Jack Ma—and two groups of courageous people armed with conviction who have dominated the news as the year draws to a close—the Ebola Fighters and the Ferguson Protesters.

jackie nickerson - time person of the year
Time sent Jackie Nickerson to Liberia to photograph Ebola fighters, the magazine’s Person of the Year.

Today, Time announced the Ebola Fighters, the doctors and nurses in Liberia working the front lines of the global health emergency, as Person of the Year. Humanitarians and healthcare professionals, the group was chosen for its “tireless acts of courage and mercy, for buying the world time to boost its defenses, for risking, for persisting, for sacrificing and saving.”

Time sent photographer Jackie Nickerson to Liberia to take the penetrating portraits that appear on five different covers the magazine produced for the special issue. The Boston-born photographer splits her time between Ireland and southern Africa. Both Nickerson and Kaphar are represented by Jack Shainman Gallery in New York.

Both Jackie Nickerson, who photographed the Ebola Fighters, and Titus Kaphar, who painted the Ferguson Protesters, are represented by Jack Shainman Gallery in New York.

IN DESCRIBING KAPHAR’S PRACTICE, the Studio Museum in Harlem says his works “initiate a contemporary dialogue with history. Marrying eighteenth- and nineteenth-century American portraiture with modernist gesture, Kaphar produces aesthetically striking, intellectually engaging artworks that often blur the line between historical fact and fiction.”

The concerns of the Ferguson Protestors and the larger movement of citizens across the country gathering, marching and declaring that Black lives matter, inform the criminal justice research Kaphar has engaged in recently. Currently on view at the Studio Museum, “The Jerome Project” grew out of Kaphar’s search for his father’s prison records. The installation of small works represents black men in the criminal justice system who share the same first and last name as the artist’s father.

Kaphar, who earned an MFA from Yale, lives and works New York and New Haven, Conn. In January, Jack Shainman will mount Kaphar’s first solo exhibition with the gallery.

“I paint and I sculpt, often borrowing from the historical canon, and then alter the work in some way,” Kaphar says on the Jack Shainman website. “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.” CT

TOP IMAGE: TITUS KAPHAR, “Yet Another Fight for Remembrance,” 2014 (oil on canvas).


Watch Titus Kaphar in his studio as he contemplates and completes his painting of Ferguson Protesters commissioned by Time magazine. | Video by Time (a sponsored message plays first)