Mixed media artist Titus Kaphar presents a free lecture, “Making Space for Black History: Amending the Landscape of American Art,” as part of Claiming Williams Day, a campus-wide program at Williams College that focuses on building and sustaining a more inclusive community. Preferred seating for the event is available to holders of valid Williams College IDs and is available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Kaphar—who demonstrates “the deliberateness of a surgeon coupled with a slightly maniacal urgency” (Art in America)—explores race, criminality, and social justice in his work, often appropriating accepted styles and media to include stories of those traditionally excluded from art history. His lecture explores topics sometimes overlooked in a museum context: Can art amend history? Is it possible to create new artifacts from the physical residues and inadequacies of the past?

The artist has said of his work: “I’ve always been fascinated by history: art history, American history, world history, individual history—how history is written, recorded, distorted, exploited, reimagined, and understood. In my work I explore the materiality of reconstructive history. I paint and I sculpt, often borrowing from the historical canon, and then alter the work in some way. 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.”

Kapahr continues, “Open areas become active absences, walls enter into the portraits, stretcher bars are exposed, and structures that are typically invisible underneath, behind, or inside the canvas are laid bare, revealing the interiors of the work. In so doing, my aim is to perform what I critique, to reveal something of what has been lost, and to investigate the power of a rewritten history.”

His recent TED Talk “Can Art Amend History?” sparked vibrant debate about the role of underrepresented voices in art history and in museums. It has been viewed more than a million times since it was delivered it in April 2017.

Kaphar was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He received a master’s degree in fine arts from the Yale School of Art and is the distinguished recipient of the Gwendolyn Knight and Jacob Lawrence Fellowship. His work is featured in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Studio Museum, New York; the New Britain Museum of American Art; the Seattle Art Museum; and the Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA). Since 2015 he has been represented by the Jack Shainman Gallery in Kinderhook, New York. He lives and works between New York and New Haven, Connecticut.

Claiming Williams Day, an annual day without classes at Williams College, was conceived in 2008 after a series of racist and sexist incidents sparked a grassroots movement to actively prevent hurtful, hateful incidents rather than responding afterwards. On Claiming Williams Day each year, campus organizations host panels, discussions, and events with the aim of making the college community more inclusive.

Kaphar’s lecture is presented by Ephs at the Clark and WCMA Think Tank, two Williams College student organizations that connect students to museums through student-led programs and opportunities that offer enriching experiences in the visual arts. His visit is underwritten by the Clark, WCMA, and Claiming Williams Day.

2:-3:30pm, The Clark Auditorium

Image credit: Titus Kaphar, Shadows of liberty, oil on canvas, 2017. A part of the Yale University Art Gallery collection

Public seating is currently sold out. Additional seating may be added at a later date. Please check this page in January 2018 for additional information.