To Count Art an Intimate Friend contains a number of recent Museum acquisitions, two of which anchor a conversation about race and social justice.
Jerry (ca.1945) by Charles White is an etching of an African American man with geometrically rendered features and a pensive gaze. This portrait hangs only feet away from The Jerome Project (Asphalt and Chalk) XI (2015) by Titus Kaphar, a large-scale drawing of chalk on asphalt-coated paper featuring three overlaid portraits of Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice.
Charles White was a renowned American social realist artist whose commitment to social change through art began with his experience in the Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression. White became a renowned artist and teacher who inspired generations of African American artists at a time when there were very few nationally renowned artists of color.
Kaphar shares White’s commitment to draughtsmanship, but his work takes on the related issues of racial profiling and mass incarceration through portraiture. The work is part of The Jerome Project (2001-present), a project that began with Kaphar’s investigation of his incarcerated father and that developed into a research-based series about policing and the criminal justice system. The unconventional portraits of African American men in this gallery share a high level of artistic craftsmanship and invite a dialogue about art’s engagement with social activism.
The Museum welcomes questions via Twitter @bowdoinmuseum #jeromeproject. Titus Kaphar will be on campus for a lecture on April 14, 2016.