Did You Know? Whitfield Lovell Edition

The National Museum of African American History and Culture officially opens its doors tomorrow! We’re celebrating by highlighting the work of Whitfield Lovell, whose Card Series II is part of the new Smithsonian’s permanent collection, and whose Kin Series (along with a number of his other related works) are on view at the Phillips beginning Oct. 8.

1) Inspiration for Whitfield Lovell’s Kin Series images came from photo booths photos, passports photos, mugshots and the like. The artist combines freely-drawn Conté crayon faces with time-worn objects such as a brooch, clock, shoe, or mirror.


Whitfield Lovell, Kin VII (Scent of Magnolia), 2008. Conté on paper,silk flower wreath, 30 x 22 ½ x 3 in. Collection of Julia J. Norrell © Whitfield Lovell and DC Moore Gallery, New York

2) In the words of the artist, Lovell’s work examines “the markings that the past has made—and continues to make—on who we are.”


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

3) Lovell’s most recent works are his “tableaux,” in which he combines Conté crayon portraits on antique wood panels with found objects. The images are drawn freehand in charcoal on the panels, giving careful thought to the grain and texture of each surface,and then adds found objects to create three-dimensional tableaux.


Whitfield Lovell, Gin Song, 2004. Charcoal on wood with found objects (saxophone, metal cups), 77 1/4 x 45 3/16 x 13 in. Courtesy of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia. Mary W.F. Howe Fund © Whitfield Lovell and DC Moore Gallery, New York

Encounter with an Effigy

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Installation view of Annette Messager’s Mes petites effigies (My Little Effigies) (1989-90). Photo: Rachel Burley

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Detail, Annette Messager’s Mes petites effigies (My Little Effigies) (1989-90). Photo: Rachel Burley

One of my favorite rooms at The Phillips Collection is the gallery just to the right of the entrance that’s currently displaying recent acquisitions. The large, open room is full of interesting pieces that remind me how revolutionary art can be, and how avant-garde the masterpieces in the permanent collection were in their own time. Currently hanging on the right wall is one of Annette Messager’s captivating installations, Mes petites effigies (My Little Effigies). I have to admit that I did not initially approach this work with any critical art historical eye, but instead was drawn to it because the hanging animals reminded me of the Beanie Babies collection I had when I was young. As I moved toward the installation to study it closer, however, all juvenile connections fell away. Although not without humor, it elicits quite a somber mood. 13 stuffed animals, holding 13 framed body parts, hang on brown string in front of 13 framed and handwritten letters. Colorful dogs, bears, cats, and even hugging otters present black and white photographs of eyes, noses, mouths, and the backs of knees. They can’t help but seem like portraits, especially when the framed writing behind them announces what they are—hesitation, confusion, obstacle, reconciliation.

What is exceptional about Messager’s installation is how quickly and powerfully it engages the viewer’s imagination. Who are these effigies to her? And who might they be to me? The unexpected visual cues inspire endless interpretations, which is the mark of great art.

Rachel Burley, Marketing & Communications Intern

Strictly Painting Is Anything But

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Guests enjoy the opening of Strictly Painting. Photo by Catherine Day

This year I was invited to jury the Strictly Painting 10 biannual that McLean Project for the Arts initiated 10 years ago, showcasing selected works by artists from a broader Washington Metropolitan area. The exhibition, on view through August 1, is anyhting but “strictly painting,” diverse in media, subject matters, and aesthetic approaches.

There is a lot going on in the DC-area art scene and this especially lively opening only confirmed it.

Vesela Sretenovic, Phillips Senior Curator

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Phillips Contemporaries members Todd Galaida, Laura Deming, and Carl Bedell attend the opening with Phillips Curator and Strictly Painting 10 exhibition juror Vesela Sretenovic.

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Winning artists Shante Bullock (left) and Lilianne Milgrom (right) with exhibition juror Vesela Sretenovic. Photos by Catherine Day

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Guests enjoy the opening of Strictly Painting. Photo by Catherine Day