Titus Kaphar & Reginald Dwayne Betts

The “Redaction Project” is a collaboration between artist Titus Kaphar and poet and attorney Reginald Dwayne Betts (both based 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 his paintings and sculptures, reconfiguring them into works that reveal unspoken truths about how nationalist and colonialist histories have erased and silenced Black bodies, a legacy that persists today. In doing so, Kaphar aims to reveal something of what has been lost and to investigate the power of a rewritten history that centers Black experiences. Betts is an American poet, memoirist, and educator. His own experiences as a teenager in maximum security prison uniquely positions him to speak on topics ranging from mass incarceration to contemporary poetry to 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 Betts's poetry, crafted out of redacted legal documents, onto Kaphar’s etched portraits of incarcerated individuals. The poems, which are screen-printed onto Kaphar’s delicate portraits, cuttingly illustrating the stark financial realities that undergird the court process and emphasize the humanity of the individuals ensnared within the system. 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 U.S. criminal justice system.



Portrait of Titus Kaphar

Titus Kaphar received an M.F.A. 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, Queens, NY, and the National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC, among others. His work is included in the collections of Crystal Bridges Museum, Bentonville, AK, the 21C Museum Collection (locations vary); The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, the Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY, the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT, and the Pérez Art Museum Miami, Miami, FL, among 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 National Endowment for the Arts Fellow. His writing has generated national attention and earned him a Soros Justice Fellowship, a Radcliffe Fellowship, a Ruth Lily Fellowship, a NAACP Image Award, and a 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. candidate of Lawat Yale University, 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, years of advocacy, and personal experience as a teenager in maximum security prison, Betts is uniquely positioned 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.