National Portrait Gallery
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 Alicia Ault’s essay in Smithsonian Magazine
or Victoria Valentine’s essay in Culture Type