Titus Kaphar (American, born 1976). Shifting the Gaze, 2017. Oil on canvas, 83 × 103 1/4 in. (210.8 × 262.3 cm). Brooklyn Museum, William K. Jacobs Jr., Fund, 2017.34. © artist or artist’s estate (Photo: Image courtesy of Jack Shainman Gallery.

One: Titus Kaphar
On view:
June 21-October 13, 2019
The Brooklyn Museum

“Titus Kaphar’s Shifting the Gaze reimagines a seventeenth-century Dutch painting to question dominant historical narratives in Western art.”

Titus Kaphar is a contemporary American painter whose work recasts and reimagines the individuals who have often been marginalized or left out of traditional Western art. As the focus of the exhibition One: Titus Kaphar, the Brooklyn Museum presents the artist’s monumental painting, Shifting the Gaze (2017), a work based on a seventeenth-century Dutch portrait of a prosperous white European family, which Kaphar strategically painted over during a 2017 TED Talk, leaving visible a Black boy believed to be the family’s servant.

With his conscious refocusing of the viewer’s gaze to the boy, Kaphar draws attention to groups who have been excluded from art-historical narratives and points to the need to amend these histories so they are more honest and inclusive. The exhibition is part of the Brooklyn Museum’s continuing effort to present exhibitions that take a critical look at the art-historical canon, questioning the Eurocentric viewpoint from which art history has traditionally been explored and centering new perspectives.

The exhibition is curated by Eugenie Tsai, John and Barbara Vogelstein Senior Curator of Contemporary Art, Brooklyn Museum. It is part of the One Brooklyn series, in which each exhibition focuses on an individual work from the Brooklyn Museum’s encyclopedic collection, revealing the many stories woven into a single work of art.

One: Titus Kaphar will be presented in conjunction with Rembrandt to Picasso: Five Centuries of European Works on Paper, an exhibition of more than 120 works on paper from the Brooklyn Museum’s collection, featuring such masters as Albrecht Dürer, Paul Gauguin, Francisco Goya, Vincent van Gogh, Berthe Morisot, Pablo Picasso, and Rembrandt van Rijn. Commentary by Kaphar, which is drawn from conversations he had with the curators of both exhibitions, will accompany a select number of prints and drawings in Rembrandt to Picasso, shining a light on the often incomplete historical narrative presented by the predominantly white, male artists of the traditional Western canon. Kaphar’s words help shift our gaze, posing questions about familiar works and providing a context for viewing them in new, unexpected ways.

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