Making History Visible: Of American Myths and National Heroes

Titus Kaphar, American, born 1976. Billy Lee: Portrait in Tar, 2016. Tar and oil on canvas, 152.4 × 121.9 cm. Collection of Bill and Christy Gautreaux, Kansas City, Missouri. © Titus Kaphar / image courtesy Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

Making History Visible will bring together historical and contemporary works to consider the role of visual art in creating an image of American identity and a multifaceted representation of history in the United States. Portraiture and history paintings were instrumental to the early formation of the republic, generating a vision of the new nation that served to unify the disparate colonies behind a cast of influential figures and pivotal events.  This fall, as Princeton University examines its historic links to the institution of slavery, this installation juxtaposes works from the eighteenth century with those of contemporary artists to call into question who is represented, who is invisible, and what cultural values are embedded in the visual traditions of American history.

The artists whose work is featured include Titus Kaphar, Thomas Hart Benton, Elizabeth Catlett, Glenn Ligon, Sally Mann, William Ranney, Faith Ringgold, William Rush, Kara Walker, Carrie Mae Weems, Charles White, John Wilson, and Hale Woodruff.

Making History Visible is one component of a rich campus-wide conversation catalyzed by the Princeton and Slavery Project, which examines the University’s historical links to the institution of slavery.

The installation Making History Visible and related programming have been made possible by generous support from the Kathleen C. Sherrerd Program Fund for American Art; and by the Humanities Council’s David A. Gardner ’69 Magic Project; the Princeton Histories Fund; the Center for the Study of Religion; the Program in American Studies; and the Department of African American Studies, Princeton University.