Whitfield Lovell

Exhibition Dates: April 3 – 24, 2004
Opening Reception: Saturday, March 6 from 6 – 8 pm
Gallery Location: 432 Julia Street, New Orleans, LA 70130
Hours: Monday – Saturday, 10am – 5pm
Contact Info: 504.522.1999; www.arthurrogergallery.com

The Arthur Roger Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of mixed media on wood assemblages by Whitfield Lovell. The exhibition will be on view at Arthur Roger Gallery, located at 432 Julia Street, from April 3 – 24, 2004. The gallery will host an opening reception on Saturday, March 6 from 6 – 8 pm.

Whitfield Lovell, Bliss, 1999. Charcoal on wood, found objects, liquor. 95 x 67 x 46 inches

Whitfield Lovell, Bliss, 1999. Charcoal on wood, found objects, liquor. 95 x 67 x 46 inches

Whitfield Lovell creates delicately orchestrated assemblages that blend surfaces, images and objects and call to memory the African-American experience in the United States.

The artist has a collection of approximately 600 tintypes, cabinet cards and photo postcards of African-Americans, principally from around the turn of the twentieth century through the 1950s. These vintage source photographs provide the basis for many of the works which evoke speculation about the subjects’ lives and experiences as they look out at the viewer with apparent composure and steadfastness. Lovell’s finished works are empathetic yet detached. The drawings reveal African-American spirituality and recall the memories and the heritage that define African-Americans. The artist states that:

The familiar is what I focus on. The specialness of the ordinary. My work simply says that this is who these individuals were and this is where a people came from. All of the photographs I work from reflect a certain image that the subjects had of themselves. Everyone had their special clothing and their prized possessions somewhere: maybe hanging behind the door, maybe on the dresser. The rest of the week they may have been laborers or seamstresses or nannies. But when they stood in front of the camera or in front of a mirror before going to church they knew who they were. They had themselves immortalized in their “Sunday best,” because in spite of how they were viewed by the rest of the world, their images of themselves were tangible, and critical for their survival.

Whitfield Lovell also says:

I particularly like images from the first half of the twentieth century because of stories my grandparents told about that period, but also because in history and in art there is a huge gray area between slavery and the Civil Rights Movement. There is very little visual evidence of ordinary African-Americans except the photographs they left behind. When looking at an old photograph or tintype, I’m intrigued by the fact that it may be the only image of that person left on this planet. I like the idea that somehow these people have immortalized themselves in those old studio portraits and presented themselves the way they wanted to be seen. They dressed up and went out to have their picture taken, and I love that. I also love the conventional formal poses of the old studio portraits.

Lovell’s work conveys an empathy with and understanding of a people who possessed very little materially yet who lived, who survived with dignity.

Whitfield Lovell was born in 1959 and grew up in the Bronx. His mother’s family is from the South and his father’s family is from Barbados. He graduated in 1981 from Cooper Union in New York and has traveled extensively in Europe and Africa.

Lovell’s work is in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the National Museum of American Art and the Seattle Art Museum.