More Than You Know features nearly fifty works from the early 1990s to the present by the American artist Whitfield Lovell. Born in Bronx, New York in 1959, Lovell is known for his signature sculptural tableaux that combine meticulously-drawn portraits of anonymous African-Americans juxtaposed with resonant objects. Part shrine, part ex-voto (or votive offering), and part theatrical set, these installations create a context in which the viewer can contemplate and engage with ordinary, forgotten individuals through an evocative yet undirected narrative structure. With a range of vernacular photographs as their source, Lovell's emotionally moving drawings on wood and paper both engage and evoke themes of memory, history, and ancestry through the representation of unidentified and forgotten African-Americans living after the Civil War and before the Civil Rights Movement. The objects he chooses are as significant as the poignant solo portraits: each holds a history of use, wear, and ownership, and acts as a virtual stand-in for the physical presence of people from time long past. During the early 20th century, formal studio photography was an important way in which African-Americans were able to assert and present their own identities in the face of active denial of their rights as individuals in the United States.
More Than You Know focuses specifically on the development of Kin, a recent series that is a distillation of the artist's concern with issue of self- and institutional representation. Kin is a series of portrait drawings on paper based on identification documentation such as passport, photo booth, and mug shots. This type of institutional document is designed to represent or classify the sitter in a markedly different manner than the staged photographic portraits Lovell used in other bodies of work. The static positioning, harsh lighting, and blank background that distinguish identification photographs are used by the artist to concentrate on the sitter's face, while his superbly precise draftsmanship allows him to tease out such intangibles as personality and emotional state in deft strokes of conté crayon.
—Aprile Gallant, Curator of Prints, Drawings and Photographs, SCMA
Whitfield Lovell. American, Born 1959. Remember Me, 2004. Charcoal on wood, chain. 16 x 14”. Collection of Julia J. Norrell