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Labels Aptekar

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Artist Fact Sheet

ArtBreak Tour:  “Labels; Do We Need Them?”


Artist’s Name:  Ken Aptekar                        

Nationality: American

Title of Work: Charlotte’s Charlotte                                                            Date: 2009


Ken Aptekar was born in Detroit, Michigan, 1950.  He completed his BFA at the University of Michigan and an MFA at the Pratt Institute.  Currently he is based in New York and Paris.  He recreates historical paintings to give viewers new insights into the subject of his paintings.  His exhibitions have been featured at major and national museums throughout the world:

Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

Centro de Cultura, Judaica, Sao Paolo, Brazil

Comtemporain Camille Lambert, Juvisy, France (and many others)

The Mint Museum commissioned Aptekar to recreate Allen Ramsay’s “Portrait of Queen Charlotte” 2009-2010.

What influenced the artist’s work? 

Aptekar uses history and historical context for inspiration.  The artist believes that viewers create meaning and interpret paintings by creating a new narrative.  While he uses traditional painting techniques, he adds a layer of text, thus adding commentary based on his focus group discussions.   His new interpretations provoke new understandings and relevant insights.  Aptekar spent time in Charlotte, holding focus group sessions with diverse groups to gain a better understanding of the community’s perceptions of and relationship to Queen Charlotte.  These discussions are a central part of his process.


Materials Used:

Oil on canvas, glass panels

Creative Process:

Chooses the subject, usually a historic painting

Produces digital images of the original painting to use as models

Paints a new version based on historic and current perceptions

Analyses his research to capture and create new understandings

Creates text based on a new narrative

Installs glass panels (imprinted with text) over the paintings

How does this piece tie to the theme: “Labels; Do we need them?”

The text panels add a significant amount of information for viewers.  These “phrases” are labels. 

Questions to engage tour participants:

How are the text panels helpful?

Do they elevate the status of the subject? How?

Are the labels relevant to Charlotte today?

Do the labels encourage you to “view” Charlotte differently?

What historical or contemporary person would you “label” in this fashion?

Additional thoughts:

How do Aptekar’s processes and his paintings continue to provoke thought and dialogue?

Helpful resources:

“Reinterpretation of Queen Charlotte by Ken Aptekar”, Martha Rucker, 2010

Ken Aptekar, http://www.kenaptekar.net/biography.html

Mint Docent Handbook – Artist Fact Sheet, Mint Wiki


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