The European Collection

Art As Activism

Titus Kaphar

The cover of the latest issue of TIME magazine is a painting by American artist Titus Kaphar entitled Analogous Colours which shows George Floyd’s mother holding him a baby, in which he has been cut out of the canvas to depict her loss. The painting references the calls that Floyd repeatedly made out to his deceased mother as he succumbed to his death.  
The cover, which also includes the names of 35 black men and women who died as the result of of systemic racism in the U.S, creates an imagined symbolic act of empowerment reminiscent of Tax Collector, which Kaphar created in 2011 for the Bermuda National Gallery’s exhibition Re-Interpreting the European Collection.
Kaphar was amongst eight local and international artists that were asked to respond to a piece of their choice from BNG’s permanent collection. He chose to respond to Thomas Gainsborough’s  Portrait of Thomas John Medleycott.
On the night of the exhibition opening, Kaphar, dressed in character, anonymously entered the gallery and sliced into the canvas of a pastiche he had created of Gainsborough’s celebrated portrait, before discarding both the materials and the workman’s outfit and emerging as himself, the artist. 
The resulting artwork, much like the TIME cover, makes space for new meaning and interpretation, using layers of personal and national histories to ask the viewer to become an active producer of history.

Top: TIME magazine cover by Titus Kaphar, June 2020. Left:Thomas John Medlycott, by Thomas Gainsborough, c. 1763. Oil on canvas. 87 x 57 inches. Collection of the Bermuda National Gallery. Gift of Hon. Hereward Trott Watlington. Right:Tax Collector, by Titus Kaphar, 2011. Oil on canvas. 87.25 x 57.25 inches. Photography by Antoine Hunt.