By: T. Felder
Los Angeles, CA (The Hollywood Times) 3/20/23 – Contemporary artist and MacArthur Foundation Fellowship Genius Grant honoree Whitfield Lovell is well known for his drawings of African American people from the early twentieth century. He specializes in pencil, oil stick, wood, and charcoal on-paper drawings. As well as pairing these drawings with objects he collects at flea markets and various antique shops.
Lovell is currently debuting his most recent art exhibition Whitfield Lovell: Passages, supported by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and presented by the American Federation of Arts. Focusing on African American history, Lovell raises universal questions about identity, memory, and the collective heritage of America, inspired by photographs from the Emancipation Proclamation and the Civil Rights Movement.
The installation “Deep River” is the exhibition’s opening piece, documenting unforgettable moments during the Civil War. It follows the freedom seekers as they cross the Tennessee River to “Camp Contraband” in Chattanooga, TN, on their journey to refuge. Its purpose is to help viewers understand African Americans’ struggles during the Civil War by presenting themes of abandonment, death, life, and hope. Ultimately, Lovell wants to encapsulate humans’ innate logging and quest for equality and resurgence, intersecting time, and geography.
“I see the so-called ‘anonymous’ people in these vintage photographs as stand-ins for the ancestors I will never know. I see history as being very much alive. One day, 100 years from now, people will be talking about us as history. The way I think about time is very different – I don’t think it was very long ago that these things happened; it wasn’t that long ago that my grandmother’s grandmother was a slave. The ancient Native American principles say it takes seven generations to overcome a tragedy, so in this context of generations, we can begin to grasp why we are at this point we are living in now.” Says Lovell
The exhibition’s second section features a stand-alone tableau and assemblages from the Kin (2008-2011) series, expressing the harsh realities of the nation’s history of racial violence with historical events such as slavery and Jim Crow laws. The drawings also explore concepts surrounding chance and destiny, touching upon card games as a social activity in the African American community.
The exhibition concludes with a second installation entitled; Visitation: The Richmond Project (2001). The artwork focuses on the successes of the first significant entrepreneurial African American community founded in Jackson Ward, Richmond, Virginia, in the 1860s. This instillation is a recognition of Maggie L. Walker, the founder of the Saint Luke Penny Savings Bank and the first African American woman to charter and serves as president of an American bank.
With over 7,000 square feet of space and 400+ objects on display, this is the largest exhibition ever presented of Lovell’s work.
Whitfield Lovell: Passages debuted on February 15 at the Boca Raton Museum of Art and will remain on view there until May 21, 2023, before embarking on a national tour for the next two years.
To learn more about how you can attend this event, click the link below: