DC Moore Gallery is pleased to present works by Whitfield Lovell at ADAA’s The Art Show, opening November 1. Known for his immersive installations and tableaux combining detailed drawings and found objects, Lovell invokes issues of personal identity, cultural heritage, and collective memory. Lovell’s major wooden tableaux Autour Du Monde, 2008, is showcased alongside the debut of his print series The Wayfarers.
Autour Du Monde (2008) depicts three uniformed World War I soldiers drawn with charcoal on salvaged wallboards. Vintage globes are affixed to the wood surface and surround the panels in clusters on the ground, creating a physical and metaphoric space for these soldiers’ passages around the world.
Lovell has long been intrigued by the theme of the African American servicemen, particularly during World War I and World War II, because of the irony inherent in Black men enlisting to fight for a country that did not afford them basic human rights. Despite hopes that demonstrating American patriotism would improve their status in the U.S., returning soldiers were met with violent conflict and continued oppression.
Among the 380,000 African Americans who fought in the army during World War I, about 200,000 were sent to Europe. In 1919, however, these returning veterans were viewed resentfully by whites for so much as wearing their uniforms in public. Racial violence broke out in cities across the United States in what came to be known as the “Red Summer.”
Lovell’s newly published and highly anticipated print series, The Wayfarers, will debut at the fair. Images of men and women are overlayed and intertwined with vintage geographic maps. The individuals depicted float above man-made divisions of towns, states, and countries, highlighting journeys in time and place, perhaps before those imposed borders had been created. Many of the antique maps Lovell selected for the series allude to movement and migration such as railroad and harbor maps, evoking both the pleasures of voluntary travel and the pain and suffering caused by forced displacement.
The Wayfarers series connotes the spirit of the African diaspora within the United States and the world at large. The faces sometimes hover over nations or regions that are not usually associated with Black communities, underscoring the existence of cultural, spiritual, as well as popular influences and contributions that Black people have made around the globe. Lovell cites the Sheedi peoples of India, the Falasha in Israel, as well as Black inhabitants throughout Europe, Asia, etc., past and present. The map, historically used as a tool of colonization and empire, is held in tension with the liberatory potential of an individual’s journey. The Wayfarers denote collective experiences through individual odysseys, and the promise and hope of travel shared across generations.