The artist Titus Kaphar looks keenly into history – whose stories get told, and which ones get left out. Through cutting, bending, sculpting, and remixing historic paintings and sculptures, Kaphar often shifts the focus of the narratives to create new works that exist between fiction and quotation. He alters the narrative, placing forgotten figures in plain line of sight.
In Language of the Forgotten, he starts Thomas Jefferson, an immediately recognizable figure, shown with the figures etched on glass who stand in for the hundreds of thousands of untold narratives about usurped liberty – most famously in this case, Sally Hemings, an enslaved woman on Jefferson’s plantation believed to be the mother of his children.
This sculpture relates to additional works by Kaphar that will be on view in the group exhibition Suffering from Realness, opening March 2019. For Language of the Forgotten, Kaphar commissioned poet Reginald Dwayne Betts to write a new poem:
“A woman disappears behind the face
of a man. Negro child, girl child, Black child,
what is the language for forgotten…”