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,
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
I Did Good to Leave, 1990