Solo exhibition of work by Titus Kaphar opens in a deconsecrated Church in Brussels

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Solo exhibition of work by Titus Kaphar opens in a deconsecrated Church in Brussels
Titus Kaphar, Untitled, 2020, oil and tar on canvas. Courtesy of Maruani Mercier and the artist.

BRUSSELS.- Maruani Mercier announces a solo exhibition of new and recent paintings by Titus Kaphar (b. 1976, Kalamazzo, MI, USA) at L’Église du Gesú, Brussels. Known for reinterpreting historic images from American and European art, in the exhibition, entitled The Evidence of Things Unseen, Kaphar addresses the representation of race in Renaissance Christian iconography. Presented in Belgium, home to Northern Renaissance masters such as Jan van Eyck and Peter Paul Rubens, Kaphar introduces this body of work to the context he is subverting in a building emblematic of a threatened supremacy. L’Église du Gesú, a deconsecrated church, was formerly a place of worship for the Jesuit community and is now externally defaced with graffiti. The Evidence of Things Unseen is Kaphar’s latest intervention in the historical representation of race.

Christianity is deeply rooted in Renaissance art. The principal patron of art at the time was the Church, meaning that artists often had to shroud their scepticism in the symbols of Catholic iconography. The epoch of landmark development – such as perfecting the illusion of light and perspective – fuelled the reach of the Church. In The Evidence of Things Unseen, Kaphar employs Catholic iconography to explore ideas beyond art as a method for religious conversion. The artist employs techniques distinguishable to his practise; canvases aggressively fold, crumple, undulate, and project from the wall, forcing themselves into the space of the viewer.

Through Kaphar’s physical interventions in works like Susan and the Elders and Eve, the artist reinterprets historical artworks into to three-dimensional landscapes and typographies. In Jesus Noir Kaphar duct tapes a portrait of a young black man over the face of Christ. Christ’s outstretched right hand, originally pointing to the heavens, now appears as a plea for help. Kaphar’s application of duct tape, a utilitarian material known to be used in all kinds of industrial and household repairs, suggests urgency and impermanence.

Even though many biblical stories take place in the Middle East and Africa, Christ and his followers are almost always depicted as Caucasian. According to Christian tradition, mankind was created in God’s own “image and likeness”, this, together with the power of the Church, informed the representation of biblical figures. Kaphar invites viewers to question the legacy of this misrepresentation.

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