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Whitfield Lovell: Passages

Consisting of two immersive installations and approximately 30 additional works, Whitfield Lovell: Passages is the most comprehensive exhibition of works by artist Whitfield Lovell.

Lovell is renowned for his masterful conté crayon portraits and multisensory installations that focus on aspects of African American history, while raising universal questions about identity, memory, and America’s collective heritage. The exhibition brings together two of Lovell’s major installations, Deep River (2013) and Visitation: The Richmond Project (2001), with a selection of freestanding tableaux and works on paper from his acclaimed Kin series (2008–2011) and Spell Suite (2019–2020), as well as the premiere presentation of his forthcoming Card Pieces II. Through a combination of visual projections, sound, and found objects, as well as examples from Lovell’s works on paper, visitors will be enveloped in hidden histories and cultural memory of the African American experience.

The subtitle, Passages, also refers to the subject matter of his work, which explores the struggle for equality, physical migration, social progress, and self-sufficiency that have been part of the African American experience. The exhibition includes works from Lovell’s past series, Kin (2008-2011), and his newest, The Reds (2021-2022). Audiences will bear witness to works created on luscious, deep crimson paper that evokes warmth, passion, and the sanguine. The Reds are presented alongside two operational telephones that, when their receivers are lifted, emit the familiar and galvanizing refrain of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” the hymn written and set to music by brothers James Weldon Johnson (1871–1938) and J. Rosamond Johnson (1873–1954).

Photographs of African Americans taken between the Emancipation Proclamation and the Civil Rights Movement provide inspiration for his work created on paper or salvaged wooden boards. He uses a highly refined portrait style to depict stories of African American individuals’ daily lives and extraordinary journeys.

Organized by the American Federation of Arts (AFA) in collaboration with the artist, the exhibition is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Terra Foundation for American Art, the exhibition will fill galleries on Level 3 and Level 4 of  Mint Museum Uptown. This is the first exhibition these multisensory installations by Lovell are presented together in a museum-wide show of this monumental size and scope.

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