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Titus Kaphar and Reginald Dwayne Betts. Norton, $100 (160p) ISBN 978-1-324-00682-4

MacArthur fellows Kaphar, a painter, and Betts (Felon), a poet and lawyer, take “a journey through words & images meant to trouble” in this provocative and lavishly produced companion to their 2019 MoMA PS1 exhibition on “the criminal justice system’s multifarious failings.” Focusing on the practice of money bail, the collaborators depict it as deeply exploitative because it allows wealthier defendants to remain free until their trials, while poor people are imprisoned even though they have yet to be tried or convicted. Kaphar’s black-and-white etchings of men, women, and children, overlaid with Betts’s poems, made by redacting words and phrases from the Civil Rights Corps’ lawsuits on behalf of individuals who could not pay their court fees, capture the cruelty of this practice. For example, a single portrait and a handful of words tell the story of a 38-year-old man jailed because he owed the city of Montgomery, Ala., $1,600 stemming from unpaid traffic tickets; since he was unable to pay these charges, the judge sentenced him to 23 days in prison, during which time he could “work off his debt” by cleaning the cells, including mopping up other inmates’ blood and feces. Elsewhere, vivid, full-color paintings evoking the history of African American culture are paired with Betts’s piercing poems on the legacy of mass incarceration and his own imprisonment as a teenager: “My plumage has become/ A lament of cell doors closing.” The result is a brilliant and original condemnation of racial injustice. (Feb.)