I appreciate Titus Kaphar’s refusal to let black humanity & history fall by the wayside. The cutout at the center of ‘Space to Forget’ is stark, displaced against the cool & muted tones of the room, and rests somewhere between presence and absence. The child-figure will always be marked by shadows from the painting, but more importantly, from any viewer’s reflection around it. As viewers, we push the child back to scale & into the room by shadow-color & imagination. Engaging online made the hole feel so glaring because my gaze had no effect on the presented relationship; it broke the triangular movement. To be clued in to this pairing’s racial dynamics, you must understand how the woman holds herself perfectly still as if she’s just another piece of furniture in this living room. Her back transforms into another surface to slide down when the staircase railing is too dangerous, but you’re still entitled to fun while in her care. She’s a safe choice because she won’t let you drop unceremoniously to the floor. She must care for your life more than you do hers, even as you mishandle her. Watch the void blink the answer: the child is white. Who else would be allowed to really live in this space?
Unsurprisingly, I’m drawn to the slave’s patchwork body. The warm, well-lighted tone of her face is lost in one arm. There’s no match under the sparkling gold bracelet: the blue-black feels like poured tar or congealed blood made flesh. We get a full history of violence in just one gesture—the perch. The other arm doesn’t really exist. The surrounding wood floor eviscerates until it’s just an outline against the broom-brush. The broom-brush implies a meticulousness in cleaning, but highlights stooping as a frequent occurrence. If she’s not bowed before her master’s children, then it’s grime. The particulars of this house always beg for her attention and say, “can you really love me if you don’t bend?” How haunting that the entire space feels sketched from her memory, especially as she’s not tucked into the background, and only the colors of the pillows feel erased. Even as she tears away the child, she can’t forget their weight, making the title honestly laughable. Are you able to rest comfortably in this space? Are you ready to ask yourself why?
Art Stack + Kaphar Studio