Though “Reconstruction” is the title--and it’s apt in its reference to Civil War era dichotomies and gestalt--Titus Kaphar’s paintings, collages and painting/sculpture hybrids just as thoroughly exude deconstruction. Indeed, Kaphar deliberately copies American portraits from the 18th- and 19th-centuries, and then cuts, binds, sews and crumples said paintings into a mélange of mixed media objects that reveal their process as much as traces of their former selves. Among the main group of objects are also two sepia-colored portraits on paper--”The Narrator and The Protagonist”--that were painted with tar, which of course brings to mind tar & feathering, but is also a visceral method of representing skin color. “Lillian Dandridge” began as an oil on canvas--perhaps of slaves in a drawing room?--but the completed work has only its top third revealed, the rest having been crumpled into an uneven bunch to reveal a blank canvas beneath it, which is in turn framed by a heaving mass of curtain-sized, canvas-colored fabric at its bottom. “Tina Vesper,” a portrait of a woman with hair in thick side buns, is cut off mid-nose and given the Christo treatment: bunched up canvas is sewn into the painting and otherwise bound across the rest of the surface with thick string. More than twenty smaller works fill the main wall of the project room--collaged, cut, glued and painted mash-ups that fold back into themselves and beyond; they’re like history looking back on itself through a dominatrix’s lens .
Published courtesy of ArtScene ©2009