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TO MAY 30
The 21 paintings in Titus Kaphar’s “Erace-ing Art History” series feel at once inevitable and surprising. For the series, Kaphar revisited 18th- and 19th-century depictions of blacks by such canonical artists as John Singleton Copley, Eugène Delacroix, William Blake, and Thomas Eakins. Kaphar zeroed in on the works’ black subjects and repainted them, in their original poses, on stark dry-erase boards—sans their white associates. (Kaphar’s recasting of a detail from John George Brown’s The Card Trick is pictured.) Does erasing—or, in Kaphar’s heady cultural-studies speak, “erace-ing”—the pieces’ white subjects simply settle old scores? Or does extracting the black figures from their familiar surroundings emphasize the never-not-there nature of race? To be sure, in several of the well-known paintings Kaphar takes on, blacks are depicted as nannies, exotic dancers, or fugitive slaves. (His reworking of Blake’s A Negro Hung Alive by the Ribs to a Gallows offers an eloquent example.) But in others, they appear to exist in more atypical roles. In Emanuel Leutze’s George Washington Crossing the Delaware, for example, Prince Whipple, a freed slave who fought in the Revolutionary War and became an important aide to Washington, appears to stand on equal footing with his white compatriots. The show is on view from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, and from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, to Sunday, May 30, at Provisions Library, 1611 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 299-0460. (Bidisha Banerjee)