Whitfield Lovell: Passages

June 29 - September 22, 2024

Mint Museum Uptown


Consisting of two immersive installations and approximately 30 additional works, Whitfield Lovell: Passages is the most comprehensive exhibition of works by artist Whitfield Lovell.

Lovell (born in 1959) is renowned for his masterful conté crayon portraits and multisensory installations that focus on aspects of African American history, while raising universal questions about identity, memory, and America’s collective heritage. The exhibition brings together two of Lovell’s major installations, Deep River (2013) and Visitation: The Richmond Project (2001), with a selection of freestanding tableaux and works on paper from his acclaimed Kin series (2008–2011) and Spell Suite (2019–2020), as well as the premiere presentation of his forthcoming Card Pieces II. Through a combination of visual projections, sound, and found objects, as well as examples from Lovell’s works on paper, visitors will be enveloped in hidden histories and cultural memory of the African American experience.

The subtitle, Passages, also refers to the subject matter of his work, which explores the struggle for equality, physical migration, social progress, and self-sufficiency that have been part of the African American experience. The exhibition includes works from Lovell’s past series, Kin (2008-2011), and his newest, The Reds (2021-2022). Audiences will bear witness to works created on luscious, deep crimson paper that evokes warmth, passion, and the sanguine. The Reds are presented alongside two operational telephones that, when their receivers are lifted, emit the familiar and galvanizing refrain of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” the hymn written and set to music by brothers James Weldon Johnson (1871–1938) and J. Rosamond Johnson (1873–1954).

Photographs of African Americans taken between the Emancipation Proclamation and the Civil Rights Movement provide inspiration for his work created on paper or salvaged wooden boards. He uses a highly refined portrait style to depict stories of African American individuals’ daily lives and extraordinary journeys.

Organized by the American Federation of Arts (AFA) in collaboration with the artist, the exhibition is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Terra Foundation for American Art, the exhibition will fill galleries on Level 3 and Level 4 of  Mint Museum Uptown. This is the first exhibition these multisensory installations by Lovell are presented together in a museum-wide show of this monumental size and scope.

About the artist

Whitfield Lovell is the recipient of a 2007 MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, colloquially referred to as the “genius grant,” and the 2014 National Academy Award for Excellence. Lovell has had solo exhibitions at the Smith College Museum of Art (2011) in Northampton, MA, and The Phillips Collection (2016) in Washington, D.C., and he was a featured artist at the opening exhibition of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. His works are featured in the collections of major museums, including the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.; the National Museum of African American History and Culture; the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts; the Yale University Art Gallery; the Hunter Museum of American Art; the Brooklyn Museum; the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; the Seattle Art Museum; and many others.

About the curator

Michèle Wije, PhD, is a former curator of exhibitions at the American Federation of Arts. She began her career at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and has organized several exhibitions including Sparkling Amazons: Abstract Expressionist Women of the 9th St. Show (2019) and Bisa Butler: Portraits (2020) for the Katonah Museum of Art, Katonah, New York.

About the American Federation of the Arts

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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Presenting Sponsor

Whitfield Lovell: Passages is organized by the American Federation of Arts in collaboration with Whitfield Lovell. Major support for the national tour and exhibition catalogue are provided by National Endowment for the Arts and the Terra Foundation for American Art.

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