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Whitfield Lovell: Passages, an Immersive Exhibition, Reveals Individual Stories of American Memory and History

1/10/2024 12:00:00 AM

On View at Cincinnati Art Museum March 1–May 26, 2024

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CINCINNATI — January 10, 2024 — The Cincinnati Art Museum presents Whitfield Lovell: Passages, the most comprehensive exhibition of the contemporary artist to date. It features more than 80 works, including evocative multisensory installations, conté crayon drawings and other thought-provoking assemblages. It will be on view March 1–May 26, 2024.

Lovell is a conceptual artist originally from Bronx, New York. He is most recognized for his drawings, many on weathered wood panels, inspired by his collection of vintage photographs of unidentified African Americans taken between the Emancipation Proclamation (1863) and the Civil Rights Movement (1954–1968). Lovell pairs his drawings with found objects, creating three-dimensional storytelling that brings American history to life.

For the first time, this exhibition brings together two of Lovell’s experiential, immersive installations, Deep River (2013) and Visitation: The Richmond Project (2001). As Lovell explains, “[These] installations are about memory and heritage and the markings that the past has made—and continues to make—on who we are.”

The monumental Deep River combines video projections, sounds of lapping water and bird calls, music, drawings and everyday objects. It documents the perilous journey freedom seekers took by crossing the Tennessee River during the Civil War. Visitation: The Richmond Project is a profound homage to one of the country’s first major Black entrepreneurial communities in Jackson Ward, Richmond, Virginia. Visitors will enter an intimate domestic interior with portraits on wood paneled walls. In this emotive installation, the artist pays tributes to the lives, names and faces of the people of this historic neighborhood.

In addition to these installations are works from Lovell’s major series, including stand-alone tableaux and pieces that combine drawings in conté crayon (a medium firmer than pastel that consists of compressed powdered graphite or charcoal mixed with clay) with vintage objects.

Julie Aronson, PhD, Cincinnati Art Museum’s curator of American paintings, sculpture and drawings, says: “It is a privilege to share this grand, sweeping survey of the masterful work of Whitfield Lovell, a MacArthur ‘genius’ fellowship recipient. 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.”

Whitfield Lovell: Passages is organized by the American Federation of Arts in collaboration with Whitfield Lovell. Major support for the national tour and exhibition catalog is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Terra Foundation for American Art. In Cincinnati, this exhibition was financially assisted by The Patricia Kisker Foundation.

The exhibition will be on view in the museum’s Western & Southern Galleries (232 and 233). Tickets are $12, with discounted rates for students, children and seniors, and can be purchased onsite and online. Save $2 when purchasing tickets online. Admission is free for museum members. The exhibition will be free for members and nonmembers every Thursday evening from 5–8 p.m. and on Friday, March 29 and Friday, April 26 from 5–9 p.m. during Art After Dark. Photography is permitted, but no flash. On social media, use the hashtag #WhitfieldLovellPassages.  


Upcoming, related events:

Artist Talk: Whitfield Lovell: 7–8 p.m., Thursday, February 29: Join us for a special opportunity to hear the artist Whitfield Lovell in conversation with Curator of American Paintings, Sculpture and Drawings, Julie Aronson, to celebrate the opening of the much-anticipated exhibition. Reservations are required and are available via the exhibition page. The event is free for members, $20 for the general public and $5 for students. 

Gallery Talk Plus—Whitfield Lovell: Passages: 1–3 p.m., Saturday, April 13: Gain a deeper insight through this unique gallery experience for adult audiences. Join an in-depth discussion of a topic, led by a curator or guest speaker, inside the exhibition. Then, enjoy an exclusive performance or artistic demonstration supporting the theme. More details to be announced. Reservations are required and are available via the exhibition webpage. The program is $10 for members, and $20 for the general public.

Create Plus: 1–4 p.m., Saturday, May 11: Try your hand at a new art technique in this studio-based program designed for adult audiences. 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 be announced. Reservations are required and are available via the exhibition webpage. The program is $20 for members, and $30 for the general public.


About the Cincinnati Art Museum

The Cincinnati Art Museum is supported by the generosity of individuals and businesses that give annually to ArtsWave. The Ohio Arts Council helps fund the Cincinnati Art Museum with state tax dollars to encourage economic growth, educational excellence and cultural enrichment for all Ohioans. The Cincinnati Art Museum gratefully acknowledges operating support from the City of Cincinnati, as well as our members.

Free general admission to the Cincinnati Art Museum is made possible by a gift from the Rosenthal Family Foundation. Exhibition pricing may vary. Generous support for our extended Thursday hours is provided by Art Bridges Foundation’s Access for All program. Parking at the Cincinnati Art Museum is free.


About The American Federation of Arts (AFA)

The American Federation of Arts is the leader in traveling exhibitions internationally. A nonprofit organization founded in 1909, the AFA is dedicated to enriching the public’s experience and understanding of the visual arts through organizing and touring art exhibitions for presentation in museums around the world, publishing exhibition catalogues featuring important scholarly research, and developing educational programs.


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