Painter challenges history with Seattle Art Museum exhibit

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Titus Kaphar gives history a chance to live in the present.

He's a young painter who had turned his passion for history into a body of work that asks contemporary questions of historically significant paintings, mostly from the 18th and 19th centuries.

The question he asked George Washington drew me to a showing of Kaphar's work, which opened at the Seattle Art Museum Friday and runs through Sept. 6.

Kaspar copied part of that famous painting of George Washington crossing the Delaware, just showing Washington and two dark hands on an oar. He made it big, then he cut Washington out and turned him upside down, making the painting look like a giant playing card.

Washington gambled with the lives of an entire people by not trying to end slavery.

He called the painting "George, George, George." Kaphar told me it's meant to be said in exasperation. He knows the complex situation Washington faced and the turmoil that shows up in Washington's diaries, but still.

Kaspar said Washington's writings show he "clearly understood that this is a sin, that it is unjust, that it is evil," but he did nothing about it....

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