Cleansing the Ills of the Past

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Whitfield Lovell, Restoreth, 2001. Charcoal on wood and found objects. Courtesy DC Moore Gallery © Whitfield Lovell and DC Moore Gallery, New York

This tableaux was originally created as part ofWhitfield Lovell’s installation Visitation, which explored the history of the Jackson Ward historic district in Richmond, Virginia, the first black entrepreneurial community in the United States, commonly described as the Harlem of the South.

Restoreth, as the artist once explained, “evolved . . . out of a need for reconciliation. For me, it bridges the abyss between slavery and the height of Jackson Ward’s heyday. The image is from a tintype of an older black woman. The work includes 33 medicine bottles—pills, powders, ointments, and tonics—that represent the elements of healing and fortification. The juxtaposition of these objects with the image of this powerful woman suggests a kind of protection from, and cleansing of, the ills of the past, while also alluding to Hoodoo practices that came from African customs.”

Whitfield Lovell: The Kin Series and Related Works is on view through Jan. 8, 2017.

Betye Saar’s Panel 61

The story of migration is ongoing. In the final, 60th panel of The Migration Series, Jacob Lawrence leaves us with the words “And the migrants keep coming.” The Phillips has invited contemporary artists to continue Jacob Lawrence’s work. Check the recently launched Jacob Lawrence website for additional works to be unveiled in this dynamic curated selection, or contribute your own #Panel61.

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(left) Betye Saar, Migration: Africa to America I, 2006. Mixed media assemblage, 14 x 12 x 6 1/2 in. Courtesy of Betye Saar and Roberts & Tilton, Culver City, CA. Photograph by Tim Lanterman for Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (right) Betye Saar, Migration: Africa to America I, 2006. Mixed media assemblage, 14 x 12 x 6 1/2 in. Courtesy of Betye Saar and Roberts & Tilton, Culver City, CA. Photograph by Tim Lanterman for Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art

Betye Saar, Migration: Africa to America I, and Migration: Africa to America II 2006

In 17 mixed media collages and assemblages, Betye Saar (b. 1926) narrates 17 distinctive journeys. By layering carefully selected clues—a gold button, an African mask, a slave ship diagram, a weathered photograph, a pressed leaf, a tattered American flag—she constructs fictional biographies of nameless characters that represent the historical passages of millions. Haunted by memories of Africa or the trauma of the Middle Passage, Saar’s journeys remind us that history is not simply the recording of past events—it is a living, breathing entity, filling the space of our present and shaping contemporary identities.

Video Tour of Whitfield Lovell

“Immersing oneself in the soulful reveries of Lovell’s art opens a window onto our shared past, and it’s ongoing reverberations in our contemporary world.” More from Exhibition Curator Elsa Smithgall on Whitfield Lovell: The Kin Series and Related Works in this video.