The Evidence of Things Unseen: Titus Kaphar
It is virtually impossible to tell the story of Renaissance art without an exploration of Christianity.
While the personal faith of the individual artist varied from devotee to atheist opportunist, the largest patron of the arts was the Church, and Catholic iconography the artist's lingua franca. The art of the Renaissance has arguably had more influence on the history of modern painting than any other period. It was the Renaissance that gave us Western history's greatest masters, revolutionized the technique of oil painting, and showed us the luminosity of human flesh. It is recognized as a period of brilliant artistic exploration of secular themes and formal innovations that continue to influence and inspire successive movements in art history.
In The Evidence of Things Unseen, Kaphar utilizes Catholic iconography as a ground on which to explore ideas beyond simple proselytization. Kaphar utilizes his whole vocabulary of formal innovation in this exhibition: canvases aggressively fold, crumple, undulate, and project from the wall, forcing themselves into the space of the viewer. Through Kaphar’s physical interventions, works like Susan and the Elders and Eve exist as bodies transformed into landscape and typography rather than polite easel paintings. In Jesus Noir Kaphar duct tapes a portrait of a young black man over the face of Christ. Christ’s outstretched right hand, originally pointing to the heavens, now appears as a plea for help. The application of duct tape – a utilitarian material known to be used in all kinds of industrial and household repairs – suggest urgency and impermanence.
Even though many biblical stories take place in the Middle East and Africa, representations of Christ and his followers are almost always depicted as European. It is not surprising that the devoted attempt to see themselves in the stories of the bible, and to envision a Christ they can recognize: Christian tradition teaches that mankind was created in God’s own “image and likeness.” And yet, religious paintings from the Renaissance unwittingly oversimplify an understanding of God by excluding a part of his creation. There are no black angels of the Renaissance. The Evidence of Things Unseen is Kaphar’s latest attempt at revision.
Titus KapharState number one, Marcus Bullock, 2019oil tar and gold leaf on panel192.405 x 151.13 x 7.3025 cm
75 3/4 x 59 1/2 x 2 7/8 in
Titus KapharThe Evidence of Things Unseen, 2020oil and tar on canvas214.63 x 182.88 cm
84 1/2 x 72 in
Titus KapharEve, 2010oil and gold leaves on canvas on wooden base37 1/8 x 54 3/8 x 33 7/8 in
94.3 x 138.1 x 86 cm
wooden base : 105,2 x 166,5 x 5,5 cm