Titus Kaphar & Reginald Dwayne Betts

The “Redaction Project” is a collaboration between artist Titus Kaphar (lives and works in New Haven, CT) and poet and attorney Reginald Dwayne Betts (lives and works in New Haven, CT). Kaphar’s art practice seeks to dislodge history from its status as the “past” in order to unearth its contemporary relevance. He cuts, crumples, shrouds, shreds, stitches, tars, twists, binds, erases, breaks, tears, and turns the paintings and sculptures he creates, reconfiguring them into works that reveal unspoken truths about the nature of history. Kaphar’s aim is to reveal something of what has been lost and to investigate the power of a rewritten history. Betts is an American poet, memoirist, and educator whose own experiences as a teenager in maximum security prisons uniquely position him to speak on topics ranging from mass incarceration to contemporary poetry and the intersection of literature and advocacy.

Redaction Project

Black background with white line drawn portrait and white text over the face. Black background with white horizontal lines, mimicking text.
Untitled (In Alabama 6.1)
Untitled (In Alabama 6.2)
All from the series “Redaction Project,” 2019
Etching and silkscreen on paper
Courtesy of the artists

The “Redaction Project” draws inspiration and source material from lawsuits filed by the Civil Rights Corps on behalf of people incarcerated because of an inability to pay court fees, the project overlays poetry by Betts onto Kaphar’s etched portraits of incarcerated individuals. The poems are crafted out of redacted legal documents, cuttingly illustrating the stark financial realities that undergird the court process. Screen-printed onto Kaphar’s delicate portraits, the poems emphasize the humanity of the individuals ensnared within the system. Together, the collaborators created portraits that meld the intimate and the institutional, drawing attention to some of the many individuals whose lives have been impacted by the racialized and socio-economic biases of the US criminal justice system.

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Biographies

Portrait of Titus Kaphar

Titus 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. Kaphar’s work, Analogous Colors, was featured on the cover of the June 15, 2020 issue of TIME. He gave a TED talk at the annual conference in Vancouver 2017, where he completed a whitewash painting, Shifting the Gaze, onstage. Kaphar’s work has been included in solo exhibitions at the Seattle Art Museum, the Studio Museum in Harlem, MoMA PS1 and the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC, among others. His work is included in the collections of Crystal Bridges Museum, Bentonville, AK; the 21C Museum Collection; The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY; the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT; and the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM), Miami, FL, amongst others.

Portrait of Reginald Dwayne Betts

Reginald Dwayne Betts is a widely-regarded memorist and poet, as well as a 2018 Guggenheim Fellow and a 2018 NEA Fellow. His writing has generated national attention and earned him a Soros Justice Fellowship, a Radcliffe Fellowship, a Ruth Lily Fellowship, an NAACP Image Award, and New America Fellowship. Betts has been featured in The New York Times, The New Yorker, and the Washington Post, as well as being interviewed on NPR’s Fresh Air, The Travis Smiley Show and several other national shows. He holds a B.A. from the University of Maryland; an M.F.A. from Warren Wilson College, where he was a Holden Fellow; and, a J.D. from Yale Law School. He is a Ph. D. in Law candidate at Yale and as a Liman Fellow, he spent a year representing clients in the New Haven Public Defender’s Office. Between his work in public defense, his years of advocacy, and Betts’s own experiences as a teenager in maximum security prisons uniquely position him to speak to the failures of the current criminal justice system and present encouraging ideas for change. That work has led Betts to be appointed by President Barack Obama to appoint him to the Coordinating Council of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and more recently for Governor Ned Lamont of Connecticut to appoint him to the Criminal Justice Commission, the state body responsible for hiring prosecutors in Connecticut.