Kenyon College

Time Travel


Titus Kaphar
(American, b. 1976)

Time Travel.
Oil on canvas.
48 x 36 inches.
Courtesy of the Pizzuti Collection.

As part of the series “Fight for Remembrance,” Time Travel reflects Titus Kaphar’s interest in reconstructing dominant accounts of American history. Through his manipulation of an historical image of a black Civil War soldier, Kaphar asserts underrepresented bodies and challenges prevailing narratives. By literally “whitewashing” the photographic portrait of a black Civil War soldier, Kaphar critiques our culture’s lack of recognition for black lives lost in service to American values and ideals. His combined additive and reductive use of the palette knives and turpentine, respectively, allows for quickly and confidently laid gestural marks that expressively convey the emotional investment between artist and subject.

In a subsequent series, “Another Fight for Remembrance,” Kaphar applies the same “whitewashing” techniques to imagery of 2014 events in Ferguson, Missouri. In this series, Kaphar depicts partially obscured protesters with their hands held above their heads. Bodies and portions of protesters’ faces are covered or veiled by large heavy strokes of white paint. Kaphar links past and present through these successive bodies of work and reminds us of our long history of silenced and forgotten people.

Kaphar’s paintings are equally personal. The artist’s own encounters with the NYPD include the controversial practice of stop-and-frisk. Though his recent work reflects events of police brutality that grow familiar in our daily news, Kaphar notes that he has “been making this work for a long time—these issues have been happening for a long time.”

Hannah Celli ‘17