Whitfield Lovell: Passages

Wood plaque with a print of a man in a suit on it with six American flags plunged into his torso with one flag larger than the others, cascading down and pooling on the floor, similar to a stab wound and blood.

Whitfield Lovell, "America," 2000, charcoal on wood, flags. 89 x 53 1/2 x 20 inches. © Whitfield Lovell Courtesy of the artist and DC Moore Gallery, New York

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Wed - Fri - Sat - Sun: 11:00 am - 6:00 pm

Thu: 11:00 am - 8:00 pm

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Organized by the American Federation of Arts in collaboration with Whitfield Lovell

Whitfield Lovell: Passages is the most comprehensive exhibition to date of the contemporary artist’s masterful conté crayon drawings, assemblages, and multi-sensory installations that focus on aspects of African American history while raising universal questions about identity, memory, and America’s collective heritage. Lovell, a 2007 MacArthur Fellowship recipient and conceptual artist, creates exquisite drawings inspired by photographs of unidentified African Americans taken between the Emancipation Proclamation and the Civil Rights Movement. He pairs his drawings done on paper, or on salvaged wooden boards with found objects and incorporates the resulting assemblages into his installations, or presents them as enigmatic stand-alone tableaux that are rich with symbolism and ambiguity.

The exhibition opens with Lovell’s immersive, multi-sensory installation "Deep River" (2013) which documents the perilous journey freedom seekers took by crossing the Tennessee River to “Camp Contraband” in Chattanooga during the Civil War. Three immense video projections of a river filmed at night envelop viewers and are accompanied by the sounds of lapping water surrounding the viewer in the gallery. A soil mound, embedded with vintage objects—utensils, pans, lamps, ropes, boots, a Bible, and weapons—is surrounded by fifty-six circular wooden foundry molds, each one bearing a hand-drawn depiction of a nameless African American individual. Deep River is grounded in the African American struggle for freedom during the Civil War and addresses accompanying themes of abandonment, death, life, and hope. However, by portraying the locale in a non-specific way and depicting people from different time periods and socio-economic milieus, Lovell also invites viewers to contemplate the larger human quest for equality and the pursuit of a better life that crosses time and geography. 

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This exhibition has been made possible by the Museum's Leadership Donors.