The Artist Recommends: Studio Museum Star Titus Kaphar Shares His Reading List

Artist Titus Kaphar. (©Titus Kaphar. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York)

Artist Titus Kaphar. (©Titus Kaphar. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York)

Last Friday, we published the first part of our exclusive interview with artist Titus Kaphar on the occasion of his first exhibition with Jack Shainman Gallery, which opens tonight. The artist spoke about what will be on view at the gallery’s two Chelsea locations (a new series titled “Asphalt and Chalk” as well as a selection of his paintings), his TIME magazine “Person of the Year” commission which featured imagery of protestors in Ferguson, Missouri, and a personal story of an interaction with the NYPD that occurred a year ago while he was visiting Chelsea for his then-current exhibition.

Research is a big component of Mr. Kaphar’s work. So at the end our chat, we asked him to share reading suggestions based on books that he’s currently using for research, or those that have left a lasting impression on him. His picks provide insight into the current dialogue surrounding police accountability, the U.S. criminal justice system and its history, and many of the subjects that appear in that artist’s work. Here are his suggestions:

My favorite book right now is a book by Vesla M. Weaver and Amy E. Lerman called Arresting Citizenship. It’s very different from the way a lot other books about criminal justice are written. It teases out the impact of the system on the way we conceive of democracy, and how criminal justice contact affects people’s future perception of how they can participate in their own democracy.

Arresting Citizenship by Amy E. Lerman and Vesla M. Weaver. (Courtesy University of Chicago Press)

Arresting Citizenship by Amy E. Lerman and Vesla M. Weaver. (Courtesy University of Chicago Press)

If you Google the book, she’s been interviewed by author and reporter Douglas A. Blackmon, who wrote another book I’d like to recommend, called Slavery by Another Name. It’s about the historic transition from slavery to prison and what happened, particularly in the South, when people were trying to figure out how to capitalize on the labor of black people when they couldn’t use slavery anymore.

Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II by Douglas A. Blackmon. (Photo via Amazon.com)

Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II by Douglas A. Blackmon. (Photo via Amazon.com)

There’s also Michelle Alexander’s book, The New Jim Crow. She’s someone who has found herself at the head of this new movement.

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander. (Courtesy newjimcrow.com)

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander. (Courtesy newjimcrow.com)

And the last book is by an author names Bryan Stevenson, he’s also a civil rights attorney, called Just Mercy. It’s about his experience as a civil rights attorney fighting on behalf of incarcerated youth who are put on death row.

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson. (Courtesy Random House)

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson. (Courtesy Random House)

The Artist Recommends: Studio Museum Star Titus Kaphar Shares His Reading List