Online Symposium | The Politics of the Portrait, in Three Parts

Posted in conferences (to attend), online learning by Editor on July 22, 2021

Titus Kaphar, Enough About You, 2016, oil on canvas with an antique frame, on loan from the Collection of Arthur Lewis and Hau Nguyen, Courtesy of the artist, photo by Richard Caspole. More information is available here.

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From the YCBA:

The Politics of the Portrait, in Three Parts
Online, Yale Center for British Art, 23 July — 17 September 2021

Featuring artists, collectors, curators, and scholars, The Politics of the Portrait is a three-part online symposium that considers potential solutions and alternatives regarding the history, display, and making of portraits and the role of representation in today’s sociopolitical climate.

In 2020 the Yale Center for British Art began a research project on Elihu Yale with Members of his Family and an Enslaved Child (ca. 1719), a painting in the collection that depicts one of Yale University’s founders with an enslaved child. This project became a springboard for this online series of conversations among artists, collectors, curators, and scholars to consider potential approaches, revisions, and additions to the canon of art history, curating, and artmaking.

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Part 1 | Art History: Hierarchies of Representation
Friday, 23 July 2021, 12–1:30pm

Tilly Kettle, Dancing Girl, 1772, oil on canvas (New Haven: Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection).

Zirwat Chowdhury, Bridget R. Cooks, and Edward Town discuss potential approaches to and revisions of frameworks that are commonly used for telling the history of portraiture with a particular focus on the Black figure. How might we restructure art history to make it a more decentralized, inclusive discipline? What scholarly initiatives have been effective at countering systemic marginalization in the representation of Black and Brown bodies in Western art? How can we overcome the problem that there are few records—material, textual, or visual—of many of the Black figures represented in Western art? Notwithstanding these absences, what work is being done to center the lives of Black figures in historical portraits? What can we learn about these figures from close looking and study in museums?

Zirwat Chowdhury is Assistant Professor of 18th- and 19th-century European Art at the University of California, Los Angeles. Bridget R. Cooks is Associate Professor at the University of California, Irvine. Edward Town is Head of Collections Information and Access at the Yale Center for British Art. The conversations is moderated by Maryam Ohadi-Hamadani, Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Center.

To join us for this program, please register here.

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Part 2 | Curatorial Practice and the Museum: Contextualization and Narratives
Friday, 6 August 2021, 12–1:30pm

Curators Liz Andrews, Christine Y. Kim, Denise Murrell, and Keely Orgeman discuss their recent projects and upcoming exhibitions and consider the ethical, practical, and historical implications of displaying portraits and figurative artworks in museums.

Liz Andrews is Executive Director of the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art. Christine Y. Kim is Curator of Contemporary Art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Denise Murrell is Associate Curator of 19th- and 20th-Century Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Keely Orgeman is Associate Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Yale University Art Gallery. The conversation is moderated by Maryam Ohadi-Hamadani, Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Yale Center for British Art.

To join us for this program, please register here.

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Part 3 | In Conversation: Titus Kaphar and Art Collectors Arthur Lewis and Hau Nguyen
Friday, September 17, 2021, 12–1pm

Titus Kaphar, Arthur Lewis, and Hau Nguyen discuss Kaphar’s practice and the importance of supporting emerging artists, artists of color, and local art communities. The conversation is moderated by Abigail Lamphier, Senior Curatorial Assistant in the Department of Paintings and Sculpture at the Yale Center for British Art.

Kaphar is an American artist whose paintings, sculptures, and installations examine the history of pictorial representation. Kaphar physically manipulates his canvases by cutting, shredding, twisting, breaking, and tearing his paintings and sculptures, reconfiguring them into works that reveal unspoken truths about the nature of history, often in an effort to consider overlooked subjects. By transforming these styles and mediums with formal innovations, he emphasizes the physicality and dimensionality of the canvas and the materials. His practice challenges art historical images and the narratives they normalize.

Kaphar received an MFA from the Yale School of Art in 2006 and is a distinguished recipient of numerous prizes and awards including a MacArthur Fellowship (2018), an Art for Justice Fund grant (2018), a Robert R. Rauschenberg Artist as Activist grant (2016), and a Creative Capital grant (2015). His work appears in the collections of the Crystal Bridges Museum in Arkansas, the Pérez Art Museum Miami, and several New York City museums, including the Brooklyn Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Kaphar lives and works in New Haven, Connecticut. In 2015, he cofounded NXTHVN, a 40,000-square-foot nonprofit arts incubator located in two former manufacturing plants in the Dixwell neighborhood of New Haven. NXTHVN offers fellowships, residencies, and other professional development opportunities to artists, curators, and students in the local community and beyond.

Lewis and Nguyen have built an art collection celebrated for its focus on contemporary women artists and artists of color and were named in the top 200 art collectors by ArtNews in 2020. Over the last thirteen years, the couple have intentionally focused on supporting a wide range of black artists and developing their local art community in Los Angeles. As a result, the core of Lewis and Nguyen’s collection features both emerging and established artists including Genevieve Gaignard, Jennie C. Jones, Titus Kaphar, Kerry James Marshall, Ebony G. Patterson, and Amy Sherald.

Lewis and Nguyen are further renowned for their intentional approach to collecting, which extends beyond building the market value for artworks. Seeing the role of the collector as one of guidance and care, the couple are active in the artist community and enjoy personal relationships with many artists represented in their collection. Lewis is creative director of United Talent Agency’s fine arts group and the UTA Artist Space in Beverly Hills, California. He is a member of the boards of the Hammer Museum and the Underground Museum in Los Angeles, as well as New York’s Studio Museum in Harlem. Nguyen is the owner and creative director of boutique hair salons.

In October 2020, Lewis and Nguyen lent Kaphar’s Enough About You (2016) to the Yale Center for British Art. This artwork was on view in the Center’s galleries for eight months in place of the eighteenth-century group portrait Elihu Yale with Members of his Family and an Enslaved Child. To learn more about why this change was made and a description of the ongoing research into this group portrait, visit New light on the group portrait of Elihu Yale, his family, and an enslaved child.

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