This exhibition is comprised of Whitfield Lovell's most recent series of tableaux constructed from charcoal drawings on vintage wood combined with found objects.
In creating his tableaux, Lovell draws upon a personal archive of hundreds of studio photographs of anonymous African-Americans, most dating from the early years of the twentieth century. It is by looking through these tintypes, cabinet cards, bubble-glass portraits, and postcards that Lovell begins the process of developing the idea for each individual work. Once an image has captured the artist's attention, it is drawn
freehand in charcoal on old wood. Careful thought is given to the grain and texture of the wood as well as to any remnants of color from paint or wallpaper. Found objects are then added in an intuitive process that varies from piece to piece to create three dimensional tableaux which literally thrust these unknown people from the past into the viewer's space.
The free-standing tableaux developed out of a series of installations that Lovell has created over the past decade. Lovell's first installations, in a 19th century slave- trader's mansion in Italy, in an abandoned 1930s row house in Houston, Texas, and in the former barracks of a 16th century Spanish fort in Havana, Cuba, recognized and utilized the ambiance of the existing historical spaces. Lovell began by making marks on the walls and progressively worked his way out into three-dimensional, theatrical space.
Whispers From the Walls, Lovell's forth installation was created during a residency at the University of North Texas Art Gallery in Denton during the spring of 1999. The installation conveys a haunting sense of the past with an intimate environment evoking the rich African-American history and culture of the early years of the 20th century. The exhibition has received extensive critical acclaim and has toured nationally since its inception, appearing at venues including the Seattle Art Museum and New York's Studio Museum in Harlem. Future venues include the Contemporary Art Center in Virginia Beach, Virginia, the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts in Alabama, the California African-American Museum in Los Angeles, and the Oklahoma City Art Museum.
Lovell's most recent installation Visitation: The Richmond Project originated at the Hand Workshop in Richmond, Virginia in the fall of 2001, and is on view at the University of Wyoming in Laramie from March 16 through June 8, 2002, and at the Columbus Museum Uptown in Georgia from September 5 to October 12. Lovell's work has also been seen in recent solo exhibitions at the Neuberger Museum in Purchase, New York, the Boston University Art Gallery, and the Black History Museum & Cultural Center in Richmond, Virginia, and will be on view at the Kohler Arts Center in Wisconsin from June 30 to September 29, 2002
Embers is accompanied by a catalogue with an essay by Dominque Nahas.