The Bronx Celebrates:
  Whitfield Lovell

  Essay by John Yau
  Introduction by Susan Hoeltzel

 

Biographical Notes
by Elizabeth Lorin


Whitfield Lovell was born in the Bronx in 1959. He began his art training at the High School of Music and Art and participated in programs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art Upon graduation he traveled to Europe, where he visited its great museums and decided to make painting his primary focus. His early oil-on-canvas portraits of family members, described as "restrained emotion of the realistic figure," exploded into fragments of brilliant color by 1979. He attended the Maryland Institute, Parsons School of Design, and received a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from Cooper Union in 1981. A Jerome Foundation Scholarship gave Lovell the opportunity to work at Robert Blackburn's Printmaking Workshop. Printmaking techniques introduced the artist to the capabilities of layering and multiple imaging, which led him to switch from oil paint to works on paper with a variety of wet and dry mediums. The immediacy of drawing became integral to his future art-making process.

Lovell participated in invitational group shows at the A.l.R Gallery in 1981 and 1982. In 1982 Lovell had his first solo exhibition at the Interchurch Center, New York. In 1983 he participated in The Beauty Show at ABC No Rio; in Transfers at the Henry Street Settlement; Artists Prints at the Cayman Gallery and in Art Biz at Just Above Midtown/Downtown Gallery in New York.

In 1984 personal events inspired Lovell to "transit from portrait imagery to a more narrative and political content." He participated in Artists in the Marketplace, Bronx Museum of the Arts; Art Against Apartheid, Henry Street Settlement; South Bronx Show, Fashion Moda; Affirmations of Life at the Kenkeleba Gallery; and Two Person Show at the Studio Museum in Harlem Satellite Gallery. He also had a solo exhibition at Galeria Morivivi, New York At this period of his career Lovell's work, which has been strongly inspired by his travels in Western Europe, began to reflect his travels in Africa. An affinity with multi-strip textiles as seen in Ghana's Kente cloths and with the "crazy" quilt tradition of the African-American culture become apparent.


In 1985 Lovell was the recipient of both the Eastman Scholarship to the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and the Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop Fellowship. His work, he says, "became more autobiographical. The colors and format of the previous work were fighting with the narratives that were coming through so that during my fellowship (at Skowhegan School) my palette was limited totally to monochromatic panels." During 1985 his work was seen in a solo exhibition at John Jay College and he participated in group shows at the Howard University Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., and In a Stream of Ink at the Columbia Museum, South Carolina. In New York City his works were viewed in group shows at Leonarda DiMauro Gallery; Forecast, Future Images at Kenkeleba Gallery; Through a Master Printer, Bronx Museum of the Arts; South Bronx Show, Bronx River Art Gallery. Throughout this period Lovell's work reflect a potpourri of images which include newspaper clippings, sketches of live models, family photographs, and found objects.

The year 1986 is represented by a more controlled body of work; the juxtaposition of various images often floating in an undefined space reflect his interest in the surrealism of the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo and the grotesques of Francesco Goya, Ghanian Adinkra symbols, images found in prehistoric cave paintings, and totemic animal forms. Curators Choice at the Bronx Museum of the Arts; Masters and Pupils, Jamaica Arts Center: Self Portrait, Kenkeleba Gallery; Black Visions, Tweed Gallery; Pisces Show, Weisner Gallery; Natural Disaster Show and Democracy at Work (both at the Longwood Arts Gallery in New York) took place in 1985.

In 1986 and 1987 Lovell received grants from the New York State Council on the Arts and exhibited in Two Person Show at Cinque Gallery and Master and Pupils at the Metropolitan Life Gallery. Lovell had his fourth solo exhibition at the Harlem School of the Arts.

Lovell has been awarded art residences in Asilah, Morocco (1988), and an Art Awareness Residency, Lexington, New York (1991). He attended the New York University In Venice graduate program (1989). He was awarded a Metropolitan Transit Authority, Arts for Transit, poster commission (1990); grants from the Penny McCall Foundation (1990), New York Foundation of the Arts (1991), and received the Mid Atlantic NEA Regional Fellowship and the AVA I I, Awards in the Visual Arts Fellowship.

In 1988 a one person exhibition at Jersey City Museum, New Jersey, was complemented by participation in New Visions at the Queens Museum; Contemporary Nudes at One Penn Plaza; Continuance/Art, of the African Diaspora at Aljira Gallery, Newark New Jersey; Oversized: Contemporary Large Scale Prints at Hostos College Gallery and Who's Uptown: Harlem '87 at the Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture.

In 1989 the artist participated in Selections from the Slide Files at Artists Space; Small Works at the Cinque Gallery, The Live Ones at Prospect Park Boat House.

In 1990 Lovell's work was seen in Image from the Common Ground, Art in General; Family Stories at the Snug Harbor Cultural Center; New Perspectives at Miami-Dade College, Wolfson Gallery, Florida; El Arte de Resistencia at the Galería El Bohío.

The years 1991 and 1992 brought participation in the traveling exhibition Interrogating Identity, curated by the Grey Art Gallery, New York, which then traveled to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Massachusetts, the Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin, Ohio, the Center for the Fine Arts, Miami, Florida, the Madison Art Center, Madison, Wisconsin, and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota. Other group exhibitions include: International Invitational at the University of Hawaii at Hilo; Three Person Show at Manhattan Community College, The Persistence of Memory at the Bronx Museum Satellite at the Jewish Home and Hospital; Happiness is a Warm Gun at Webo Gallery; Maps and Madness, Marine Midland Bank; The New School Collects: Recent Acquisitions, Parsons Exhibition Center; The Human Circumstance, NYNEX Gallery; Race and Culture, City College Gallery; Artists in the Marketplace, Pepsico Gallery; Through the Eyes of Change at the Pelham Art Center, and Good Work, at the Houghton Gallery, Cooper Union.

In 1993 Lovell will be presenting his work in a solo exhibition at the Lehman College Art Gallery and will participate in group shows at Duke University Museum of Art, Durham, North Carolina, at the Intar Gallery, New York, and in the Cuenca Bienal in Ecuador. The artist describes his present work as less literally autobiographical though still very inspired by personal experiences. He is using images symbolically rather than narratively.

Lovell's works are in The Promise of Learnings Collection, New York the public collection of The New School for Social Research, New York and in numerous private collections. The artist is adjunct instructor and director of the Saturday Program at The School of Visual Arts, New York.


 

I Did Good to Leave, 1990