Whitfield Lovell has earned a reputation as one of the foremost African-American artists working in a variety of media ranging from wood panels to video on screen. All of that is on display at the Boca Museum of Art in Boca Grande until late May.
The museum itself is a beauty of modern construction with a welcoming entry that lends itself to a relaxed atmosphere that is unique in the heart of a busy South Florida city. But one atop the steps and into the entry, all the hustle and bustle of traffic and normal city noises fade away.
Most of the main level, room-to room features a variety of Whitfield Lovell’s art work. Patrons attending the exhibition move slowly, taking in virtually each and every object d’art. And each one deserves that relaxed perusal to fully enjoy the exhibit.
In the first room is a full floor-to-ceiling video of gentle ocean waves cascading across the wall. A fitting introduction to Lowell’s art. To full enjoy and appreciate the exhibit, take time to slowly move from one to the next. Look again and you might see something in the piece you missed the first time around.
The exhibition: Whitfield Lovell: Passages, is considered to be the most comprehensive exhibition of his art works ranging from conté crayon drawings, assemblages, multi-sensory installations that graphically show his artistic range and ability.
The greater majority of Lowell’s work focuses on African-American history with works depicting women with bandanas covering their hair to young men holding guns. While it is obvious that Lowell by no means is espousing violence in the African-American community, he does not shy away from the reality. In many of his pieces of art he focuses on a variety of aspects of African-American history and culture as well as the community’s collective heritage. Thus he raises questions about identity and memory. Lovell, a recipient of the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship, is considered to be a conceptual artist with many of his works inspired by photographs of unidentified people taken from the time of the Emancipation Proclamation through the civil rights movement. Many of his artworks are on paper, wooden boards salvaged from anywhere he could find them.
The opening exhibit, as mentioned, is titled “Deep River” (executed in 2013) that is a multi-sensory installation. It’s intended to document the route taken by slaves crossing the Tennessee River as they sought freedom on their way to “Camp Contraband” in Chattanooga during the Civil War. But while is depicts a serious issue, it also offers a scene of gentle relaxation as the waters slowly roll across the screens. The artwork is accompanies by the sounds of water lapping at the shore. A mound of soil that is embedded with vintage objects: utensils, pans, lamps, ropes, boots, a bible and weapons is surrounded 56 circular wooden foundry molds, each with a hand-drawn depiction of a nameless African-American.
Moving slowly from room-to-room the visitor can casually enjoy Whitfield Lovell’s work from generation to generation; from past to present. He shows what Africans endured from their first days in America to the present without being preachy or making overt political statements. But the underlying history is there for anyone to see. The Boca Museum of Art is open Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; on Thursday from 11 a.m.to 8 p.m.. It is closed on Monday and Tuesday. Admission to the museum is free for members. For adults the admission is at $16.00. Those 65 and over pay $12.00. High school students under 18 are admitted are admitted at no charge as are children under 15. Tickets and information
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