Sunday, March 14, 2010

Whitfield Lovell at Arthur Roger; Visionary Art at Octavia

Whitfield Lovell collects old photographs of African Americans, often decked out in their finery and posed formally before the camera. Displaying deft draftsmanship, he recreates their images on old wooden planks and then incorporates antique symbolic objects in his eloquent sculptural assemblages. DEUCE, below right, is emblematic, a black couple from a century ago posed with a Victorian chair. Extending from the front of the sepia wooden planks is a tabletop covered in antique lace and vintage silverware. The vintage objects and eerily photographic images (click to enlarge) contribute to a resonant sense of “presence” that allows us entry into another time and place, one different from our own yet so
familiar that we can readily relate. Here we sense their uniqueness as well as something common to us all, and common to our own ancestors, regardless of time, place or ethnicity. In LENOX we see a nattily dressed dude looking dignified in a homburg and zoot suit atop a totem of vintage radios, and it’s easy to imagine a personal story for this possible jazz musician.  More unsettling is CUT, above right, a view of a black lady rendered on planks and framed by antique hatchets and old wallpaper. Lovell lets our imaginations wander in these skillfully crafted time capsules whose residents graciously invite us in without entirely obscuring their all too human undercurrents.
     Meanwhile, the Octavia Gallery features the work of outsider artists such as the late Reverend Howard Finster, who once saw a human face in his fingerprint that told him to make sacred art. Juanita Rogers was compelled by other spirits to make sculpture from mud and moss, bones and graveyard dirt, while Nola’s own Willie White saw visions of fantastic prehistoric birds, dragons and flying horses over Central City. Clearly mysticism is alive and well, and these artists, among others in this expo, are apparently happy to share it with us. ~Bookhardt


RECENT WORK: Mixed Media Assemblages by Whitfield Lovell
Through April 17
Arthur Roger Gallery, 432 Julia St., 522-1999, www.arthurrogergallery.com
VISIONS FROM THE SOUTH: An Exhibition of Outsider Artists
Through April 24
Octavia Art Gallery, 4532 Magazine Street, 309-4249; www.octaviaartgallery.com