Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery: UnSeen

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. In the Profiled series, 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.” The exhibition also includes selections from his widely exhibited Erased Lynching series, which helped to raise awareness of the lynching of African Americans, American Indians, Chinese, and Latinos in the West. 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.

Read Smithsonian News Desk Announcement

Read Alicia Ault’s essay in Smithsonian Magazine or Victoria Valentine’s essay in Culture Type

To learn about NPG acquisition of Shonke Mon-thin

To see excerpt of the PDF of the Unseen brochure

To read about Smithsonian Acquisition of Shonke Mon thi^