plaster casts and bust portraits of four men
13 Plasters [Row 3] by Ken Gonzales-Day / 2014 (printed 2017), Chromogenic print / Courtesy of the artist and Luis De Jesus, Los Angeles

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

March 23, 2018 - January 6, 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.

  • White marble busts of a young African American woman and an older white woman

    Profiled Series: Untitled: Bust of Mary Seacole by Henry Weeks; marble, 1859;  The J. Paul Getty Museum. Los Angeles and Bust of Mm. Adélaïde Julie Mirleau de Newville, née Garnier d'Isle by Jean-Baptiste Pigalle; marble, 1750s; The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles by Ken Gonzales-Day, 2009 (printed 2017),  Archival ink on rag paper. Courtesy of the artist and Luis De Jesus, Los Angeles

  • Bustlength portraits of a man in colonial dress with a blacked out face

    Billy Lee: Portrait in Tar |  Titus Kaphar (born 1976) |  2016, Oil on canvas with tar | Collection of Bill and Christy Gautreaux

  • Woman in colonial dress with a blacked-out face

    Ona Judge: Portrait in Tar | Titus Kaphar (born 1976)  |  2016, Oil on canvas with tar | Ellen and Steve Susman

  • Collage of items and African American portraits

    Twisted Tropes | Titus Kaphar (born 1976) | 2016, Oil on canvas with antique frame | Eileen and Richard Ekstract

  • Head of a man (George Washington in a box within purple drapes.

    Profiled Series: George Washington by Augustus Lenci, copy after Jean-Antoine Houdon; plaster, c. 1843; National Portrait Gallery | Ken Gonzales-Day (born 1964) |2014 (printed 2017) |  Chromogenic print | Courtesy of the artist and Luis De Jesus, Los Angeles

  • Portrait of a man but the canvas is shredded and hanging

    Disordered Suspension | Titus Kaphar (born 1976)  |  2011, Oil on cut canvas on panel | Private Collection, Courtesy Jack Shainman Gallery, New York, NY

  • Portrait of Thomas Jefferson with the canvas peeled away to reveal a black woman (Saly Hemings)

    Behind the Myth of Benevolence | Titus Kaphar (born 1976) | 2014, Oil on canvas | Guillermo Nicolas and Jim Foster

  • Mummified colonial figures in a landsccape

    Columbus Day Painting | Titus Kaphar (born 1976) | 2014, Oil and mixed media on canvas | Dr. Robert B. Feldman


This exhibition has been made possible through the generous support of:  Agnes Gund, Mr. Joseph P. Ujobai and Mr. Eduardo J. Ardiles, Mr. Tommie L. Pegues and Mr. Donald A. Capoccia, Paul and Rose Carter, Glen and Sakie Fukushima, Dr. Ann E. Roulet, Kate Kelly and George Schweitzer, The Rebecca Houser Westcott Fund for Portraiture Now, The Agora Culture, Bernard I. Lumpkin and Carmine D. Boccuzzi, Skanby + Gould Foundation, Jim Sokol and Lydia Cheney, Gretchen Sierra-Zorita and Peter Barton Hutt II, and Catherine Adams Hutt and Peter Barton Hutt. Additional support has been provided by the American Portrait Gala Endowment.