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Unsettling Histories

Principal Investigators

  • Laura De Becker

    University of Michigan Museum of Art


University of Michigan Museum of Art

Intervention in the University of Michigan Museum of Art through the lens of race to rethink traditional art historical classifications. “Flay” by Titus Kaphar, who will be in residence at the museum, is the centerpiece of this reimagining of historical narratives through art.

Titus Kaphar is an artist whose paintings, sculptures, and installations examine the history of representation by transforming its styles and mediums with formal innovations to emphasize the physicality and dimensionality of the canvas and materials themselves. His work, Flay (James Madison), is the centerpiece of Unsettling Histories: Legacies of Slavery and Colonialism, UMMA’s reinstallation of the gallery of eighteenth century European and American art. Through the acts of shredding, cutting, shrouding, tarring, erasing, breaking and nailing, Kaphar’s portrait of James Madison sheds light on unspoken truths in our country’s history, examining how histories have been rewritten, distorted, reimagined, and understood.

Kaphar’s commitment to social engagement has led him to move beyond traditional modes of artistic expression to establish NXTHVN. NXTHVN is a new national arts model that empowers emerging artists and curators of color through education and access. Through intergenerational mentorship, professional development and cross-sector collaboration, NXTHVN accelerates professional careers in the arts. Now in its second year of operation, NXTHVN encourages artists, art professionals, and local entrepreneurs to expand New Haven’s growing creative community.

Kaphar received an MFA from the Yale School of Art and is a distinguished recipient of numerous prizes and awards including a 2018 MacArthur Fellowship, a 2018 Art for Justice Fund grant, a 2016 Robert R. Rauschenberg Artist as Activist grant, and a 2015 Creative Capital grant. His work is included in the collections of Crystal Bridges Museum, Bentonville, AK; the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM), Miami, FL; The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York, NY; the Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY and The Metropolitan Museum of Art (the MET), New York, NY, amongst others.

Kaphar will speak on Thursday, January 20, from 5:30 – 6:45 PM as part of the Penny Stamps Distinguished Speaker Series. This program is presented in person at the Michigan Theater. Learn more about COVID-19 pro­to­cols for Penny Stamps Speaker Series events.

Pre­sented in part­ner­ship with The Penny W. Stamps Distinguished Speaker Series as part of the 2022 Rev. Dr. Mar­tin Luther King Jr. Sym­po­sium. Addi­tional sup­port came from the U-M Office for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and U-M’s Democ­racy & Debate 2021 – 22. Lead support for Unsettling Histories: Legacies of Slavery and Colonialism is also provided by the University of Michigan Office of the Provost the Susan and Richard Gutow Endowed Fund.