Whitfield Lovell

The Kin Series and Related Works

October 8, 2016 - January 8, 2017

Exhibition Images


"The importance of home, family, ancestry feeds my work entirely. African Americans were generally not aware of who their ancestors were, since slaves were sold from plantation to plantation and families were split up. Any time I pick up one of these old vintage photographs, I have the feeling that this could be one of my ancestors."—Whitfield Lovell

In 2008 internationally recognized American artist Whitfield Lovell (b. 1959, Bronx, New York) began what has become a defining body of work, the deeply resonant Kin series. In each masterfully arranged composition, Lovell carefully juxtaposes an exquisitely drawn African American face with timeworn objects from everyday life. His rendering of such detailed, vivid faces, along with his selection of objects to accompany them, stems from countless hours of meticulous drawing and sustained contemplation of anonymous figures inscribed within faded old photographs.

From Kin I of the series, featuring the riveting gaze of an African American male wearing a fedora with small paper US flags arrayed below his head, to Kin LX, portraying the gently turned face of an African American male peering out from behind a thicket of branches, Lovell mines the breadth and depth of human experience to reveal common bonds that transcend racial, gender, cultural, or religious difference. The provocative pairings of objects and images open up multilayered meanings for the viewer that challenge our preexisting notions and perspectives.

This focused exhibition closely examines Lovell’s narrative and formal invention in the Kin series and situates it within the broader context of his creative practice by bringing it together with a selection of his finest related works. The presentation moves freely between the intimate, enclosed spaces of the Kin and the large, open three-dimensional realms of the tableaux. To immerse oneself in the soulful reveries of Lovell’s art is to contemplate “the markings that the past has made—and continues to make—on who we are.”


The exhibition is organized by The Phillips Collection. 

The exhibition is presented by

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With support from DC Moore Gallery

Additional in-kind support is provided by