Conjuring the Aural Past with Whitfield Lovell

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Whitfield Lovell, After an Afternoon, 2008. Radios with sound, 59 x 72 x 11 in. Courtesy DC Moore Gallery © Whitfield Lovell and DC Moore Gallery, New York

In After an Afternoon, Whitfield Lovell omits the human figure, instead conjuring the aural past with sounds emanating from 37 vintage radios, some with stopped clocks and all stacked to approximately human height. The radios play three tracks: Billie Holiday singing “Yesterdays” and “Strange Fruit,” a Walter Winchell WWII news broadcast, and an excerpt from the 1940s radio program The Beulah Show. The Beulah Show aired on the radio from the late 1940s into the early 1950s, when it was adapted for television. It was the first sitcom to feature an African American as the main character, though it was continually criticized for contributing to negative racial stereotypes. Marlin Hurt, a white man, originally provided the voice of the main character Beulah (along with other characters) until his death in 1946, when Hattie McDaniel took over the role. The recording used here features the voice of Amanda Randolph, who voiced Beulah from 1953–1954.

After an Afternoon conveys overlapping narratives from the privacy of the home to the turmoil of the warfront, drawing on the connection between sound and memory to evoke the racial climate of a pre-civil rights era.

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

Allan de Souza’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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Allan deSouza, Entry (from The World Series), 2011. Digital print, 12 x 16 in.

Allan deSouza, Entry (from The World Series)

The artist’s multimedia work explores the relationship between individual experience and historical and ideological constructs. In his Intersections installation for the Phillips in 2011, The World Series, deSouza responded to Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series with 30 photographs taken on his travels around the world that capture the condition of people on the move.

Things Aren’t Always What They Seem

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Photographs by Sharon Core currently on view at the Phillips

My very first experience in a museum was, as far as I can remember, intimidating. I over-distanced myself from Auguste Rodin’s exquisite bronze sculptures for fear that I would fail to resist the impulse to touch them and get myself into trouble.

I felt a similar impulse when I ran into Sharon Core’s series of works in a second floor gallery at the Phillips today. Although the experience wasn’t intimidating this time, the temptation to touch the work was as hard to resist. This time, it wasn’t a sculpture; yet as solid and life-like. The photographs’ three-dimensional quality and tangibility tricked my eyes into thinking that what I saw was a real object.

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Sharon Core, Peaches and Blackberries, 2008. Chromogenic print, 13 1/2 x 17 1/2 x 1 3/4 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC, Gift of The Heather and Tony Podesta Collection, 2015

I had to stare at the works for a while to decide whether these were photos or paintings; their subject, composition, and painterly quality instantly reminded me of still life paintings from the 19th century. As speculated, Core was inspired by the compositions of 19th century American still life painter Raphaelle Peale. By meticulously rendering details and emphasizing texture, Core overcomes the limitations of photography and captures features that would have been hard to see even in real life. In fact, the highly contrasting lights, vibrant coloration, and the lustrous texture of the objects are all pictorial elements that could have only been achieved through the labor-intensive process of assembling the materials and arranging the setting.

Across the room hangs a row of still life paintings by post-Impressionist artists. One of them is Paul Cézanne’s Glass and Apples, which is rather muted in tone with no striking tactile appeal. With the emergence and development of photography in his time, Cézanne would have found no point in creating a photo-realistic representation; rather, he was more concerned with capturing the very essence of painting and conveying his own perception of the subject.

Ironically enough, Core’s vibrantly colored, highly-staged photographs that imitate the style of still life painters predating Cézanne, hang right across from his rather simple composition.

As FotoWeek is approaching, come visit the Phillips and take a look into Core’s work that jumps across the boundary between painting and photography. What about Core’s prints is similar to Cézanne’s painting? What’s different?

Summer Park, Marketing & Communications Intern