FORCED OUT OF FRAME
Forced Out of Frame comes from a series in which Kaphar examines the current heightened visibility of police brutality on black bodies in the US He based this work on dash-cam footage sourced from YouTube that shows the moment when arresting officer Brian Encinia forcibly removed Sandra Annette Bland (1987– 2015) from the camera’s frame after a routine traffic stop on July 10, 2015.
Kaphar uses sticky, viscous tar to evoke the asphalt across which Bland was dragged in order to render her invisible and powerless. The thick black surface in the final panel in this series evokes the last moments of Bland’s life; she was found hanging in her cell three days after her arrest. Forced Out of Frame challenges us to consider how individuals are trapped within cycles of brutality and how quickly they can be forced out of existence.
Forced Out of Frame, 2016
Oil and tar on panel
Collection of Cathy and Jonathan Miller, New York
“I started looking for something to change through the watching, that somehow I was going to watch this video again, and I was going to see something different, and I just felt myself trapped in it. The one thing that I did notice beyond the tragedy of the whole film, there was one moment that felt pivotal. That was the moment in which the officer takes Sandra out of the frame.” –Titus Kaphar
ON THE ROLE OF PORTRAITURE:
I’m deeply interested in portraiture as a form, and when you look at mugshots as a form, that kind of portraiture only has a single purpose. It’s to memorialize criminality. It really has no other real aesthetic function. There are no aesthetic questions asked about lighting, about composition, about pose … three-quarter, portrait, profile … in a way that would attempt to uplift or glorify the sitter.
ON VISUALIZING INMATES:
I began to create these portraits to meditate on the faces of people who have, not just survived the institution, our prison system, but who have come out and really begun to work towards changing the system…When you’re dealing with these kinds of issues, it’s so very easy to get lost in the horror. It’s so very easy to get lost in the losses. The wins, the success stories don’t often come through. So those portraits, that whole series, are folks who are working in the community trying to make things better for everyone, honestly.
ON THE ROLE OF ART AND POLITICS:
I’m not a painter that believes you put a painting on the wall and it changes the world. I think it’s a conversation starter. I think it can provoke questions. It can move us emotionally, but I believe strongly that, as artists, we need to engage the system in some broader ways if we want to see the changes in the world that we hope for, that we paint about.
Interview with Bill Keller for The Marshall Project “Titus Kaphar on Art, Race, and Justice” (February 1, 2017)
Born 1976, Kalamazoo, Michigan; Lives in New York
Titus Kaphar is a conceptual artist who creates paintings that wrestle with the struggles of the past, through rigorous engagement with the history of art and critique the present. Kaphar cuts, bends, sculpts, and mixes the work of art historical painters with contemporary ideas and materials.
Kaphar received his BFA in painting from San Jose State University and his MFA from Yale University School of Art.
Select solo exhibitions: Studio Museum Harlem, New York (2014-15); Seattle Art Museum, Washington (2009); Savannah College of Art and Designs, Georgia (2008); Yale Art Gallery in New Haven, Connecticut (2005); and San Jose State University, California (2000). Select group exhibitions: Institute for Visual Arts at University of Alabama at Birmingham (2015); The School in Kinderhook, New York (2014); Kalamazoo Institute of Art Museum, Michigan (2008); Euphrat Museum of Art in Cupertino, California (2004); and African American Historical and Cultural Society in San Francisco, California (2000). Collections include: Birmingham Museum of Art, Brooklyn Museum, Perez Art Museum, MoMA, Studio Museum Harlem, The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Select awards: California Arts Council, Creative Captial (2015), Belle Arts Foundation (2006), and California Arts Council (2004).