UnSeen: Our Past in a New Light, Ken Gonzales-Day and Titus Kaphar


National Portrait Gallery,
Smithsonian Institution

Mar 23, 2018 – Jan 06, 2019

The exhibition highlights the work of two leading contemporary artists who grapple with the under- and misrepresentation of certain minorities in portraiture and American history. Gonzales-Day and Kaphar illuminate the contributions and sacrifices people of color made during the country’s founding. Kaphar defaces, cuts, and peels back his paintings to show how portraits of American historical figures, such as Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson, have traditionally coded racial difference, hid systemic prejudices, and omitted the presence of African Americans. Gonzales-Day photographs portrait busts, sculptures, and ethnographic casts in European and American museums to create installations that reveal how scientific studies, artistic conventions, and collecting tendencies have reinforced inappropriate notions of race and “Otherness.” Together, the work of these two artists will demonstrate how the absence of certain figures and communities in art has preempted their recognition in national history, and, in the process, will reclaim a space for them in the art historical context.

The Portrait Gallery curators for this exhibition are Curator of Painting and Sculpture and Latino Art and History, Taína Caragol, and Curator of Prints, Drawings and Media Arts, Asma Naeem.

National Portrait Gallery


Image at top : Ken Gonzales-DayHenry Weekes, Bust of an African Woman and Jean-Baptiste Picalle, Bust of Mm. Adélaïde Julie Mirleau de Neuville, née Garnier d’Isle. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 2011

Image at bottom: Ken Gonzales-Day,  America, Hiram Powers, Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2014

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