Deliberately cut-out children in Titus Kaphar's new paintings reveal African American mothers' biggest fear

From a Tropical Space, 2019 © Titus Kaphar. All images courtesy of the artist and gallery.

From a Tropical Space, 2019 © Titus Kaphar. All images courtesy of the artist and gallery.

A painter, sculptor, filmmaker, and installation artist, Titus Kaphar's work reflects on the experience and perception of underrepresented and marginalised groups, including the African American community.

In his latest series of oil paintings, From a Tropical Space, he presents a haunting narrative of black motherhood where there's collective fear over the disappearance of children, literalised through the physical removal of their images from the canvases themselves. The absence of each juvenile figure – whether seated in a stroller or held in a woman's arms – reveals only the blank gallery wall beneath. The intense colour palette applied to the suburban backdrops only heightens a pervasive tension – these are images for uncertain times.

Currently on show at Gagosian in New York City, the gallery says: "While much of Kaphar's work begins with an exhaustive study of pre-twentieth-century master painting techniques, From a Tropical Space sees him wield these various methods to create an emotionally saturated visual landscape that is entirely contemporary. Just as artists, through time, have translated the fraught and mercurial sociopolitical contexts in which they operate into new and often radical aesthetic modes, so do the pervasive social and cultural anxieties of the world in which we find ourselves resonate throughout Kaphar's new work."

Born in 1976 in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Titus Kaphar lives and works in New Haven, Connecticut. Using materials including tar, glass, and rusted nails – together with highly refined oil painting – and employing techniques such as cutting, shredding, stitching, binding, and erasing, he is renowned for reconfiguring and regenerating art history to include the African-American community.

From a Tropical Space by Titus Kaphar runs at Gagosian in New York City until 19 December 2020. Discover more of his work at kapharstudio.com.

The distance between what we have and what we want, 2019 © Titus Kaphar

The distance between what we have and what we want, 2019 © Titus Kaphar

Twins, 2020 © Titus Kaphar

Twins, 2020 © Titus Kaphar

Titus Kaphar in his studio. Portrait by John Lucas

Titus Kaphar in his studio. Portrait by John Lucas