Titus Kaphar, Shadows of Liberty
Known for the ways in which he deconstructs canvases to critique the functionality of history, Titus Kaphar’s work demonstrates the contemporaneity of American history. This piece depicts George Washington as a powerful historical figure complete with stature, sword, and horse. Yet, Kaphar centers and materializes Washington’s position as a slave owner through shredded pieces of a secondary canvas upon which he painted the names of approximately 300 people Washington enslaved.
By nailing the shreds directly into the painting, Kaphar signifies the Central African tradition of Nkisi or Power Figures, mystical figures that Kongo peoples utilized to bring their various hopes and wishes to fruition. For Kaphar, Washington is an American power figure that could have, but consciously chose to never bring the hope of emancipation to fruition for those he enslaved.
Would race relations in America be different if Washington supported Emancipation?
|108 x 84 inches
|Oil on canvas
|New Haven, CT