Lovell’s ‘Passages’ to open at Cincinnati Art Museum in March

The Cincinnati Art Museum is set to host the most comprehensive exhibition of celebrated contemporary artist Whitfield Lovell.

“Whitfield Lovell: Passages” will be on display at the Eden Park museum from March 1 through May 26. The gallery show features a mix of multisensory installations, conté crayon drawings and other assemblages. There are more than 80 pieces in total.

Whitfield Lovell’s “Deep River

Born in New York, Lovell achieved international notoriety for his conceptual drawings, many of them appearing on weathered wood panels. He often pairs his drawings with found objects as a way to create three-dimensional storytelling to further bring slices of American history to life. Much of his work receives inspiration from his collection of photographs of unidentified African Americans taken between the time of the Emancipation Proclamation through the Civil Rights Movement from the 1950s and ‘60s.

Lovell won a MacArthur ‘genius’ Fellowship in 2007.

Beyond the gallery display, there will also be a series of related events, such a Lovell-led artist talk the night before the public opening.

Julie Aronson, CAM’s curator of American paintings, sculpture and drawings, called it a “privilege” to share a “grand, sweeping survey of the masterful work of Whitfield Lovell.”

“Exploring multiple dimensions of the African American experience through intriguing and emotive assemblages and installations, Lovell honors the lives of everyday people of the past and reflects on prospects for the future,” she added.

Inside Lovell’s ‘Passages’

For the first time, this exhibition brings together two of Lovell’s experiential installations: “Deep River” (2013) and “Visitation: The Richmond Project” (2001).

“Deep River” combines video projections, sounds of lapping water and bird calls, music, drawings and a range of everyday objects. It documents the journey freedom seekers took by crossing the Tennessee River during the Civil War.

The scene inside Lovell’s “Visitation” installation

In “Visitation,” Lovell pays homage to one of the United States’ first major Black entrepreneurial communities – Jackson Ward in Richmond. Visitors will enter an intimate house-style living quarters with portraits on paneled walls. The images and names are of people who lived in the neighborhood.

Lovell described the pieces as being “about memory and heritage and the markings that the past has made – and continues to make – on who we are,” according to a statement from CAM.

Other noteworthy items include a series of stand-alone tableaux.

The American Federation of Arts organized “Whitfield Lovell: Passages” in collaboration with Lovell. The show’s national tour and exhibition catalog received major financial support from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Terra Foundation for American Art. The Patricia Kisker Foundation provided specific funding for the showcase in Cincinnati.

“You’re My Thrill” by Lovell

The exhibition will be on view in CAM’s Western & Southern Galleries (232 and 233). 

Tickets are $12, with discounted rates for students, children and seniors. Admission is free for museum members. The exhibition will also be free for all visitors every Thursday evening from 5 to 8 p.m. and during the museum’s Art After Dark presentations in March and April. 

Related events

  • Thursday, Feb. 29, 7-8 p.m. Artist Talk: Whitfield Lovell: Learn more about the process and motivations behind Lovell’s work. The event is free for members, $20 for the general public and $5 for students. Reservations required.
  • Saturday, April 13, 1-3 p.m. Gallery Talk Plus: An in-depth discussion led by a curator or guest speaker, inside the exhibition. Then, enjoy an exclusive performance or artistic demonstration supporting the theme. More details to come. The program is $10 for members, and $20 for the general public. Reservations required.
  • Saturday, May 11, 1-4 p.m. Create Plus: Try your hand at a new art technique in this studio-based program designed for adults. The themed class will begin with discussion in the exhibition led by an artist or educator to gain inspiration and understanding for the art form. Then, learn from skilled artists to take your art-making practice to the next level. More details to come. The program is $20 for members, and $30 for the general public. Reservations required.

Cincinnati Art Museum

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