Exhibitions at Boca Museum of Art explore African American history, Venezuelan art
A multi-sensory art exhibition focusing on African American history is kicking off its national tour at the Boca Raton Museum of Art, alongside paintings by a renowned Venezuelan artist.
“Whitfield Lovell: Passages” takes up the entire first floor gallery space. And all its 7,500 square feet feels like a window into African-American life in the 20th century.
Drawings of portraits of nameless Black Americans, from all classes, rest within tall and wide pieces of aged wood boards. One room has real life soul food set on a dining table inside of an immersive period room, a wooden shack.
Artist Whitfield Lovell incorporates found objects, such as bourbon bottles and vintage luggage, to illustrate Black American life. It’s a moving, visual history of people from the post-Civil War Reconstruction Era to the civil rights movements.
Lovell, whose parents are from South Carolina and Barbados, told WLRN his exhibition transports Americans through space and time to examine the realities of past and present.
“I want [art goers] to step into one of these period rooms that I’ve created and feel like they’re in a different time. And they’re in a different place,” Lovell said. “And it helps to have more compassion and more understanding of how we got to where we are today.”
There are multiple rooms. On the floor in the center of the main room, there is a mound of dirt embedded with various implements, such as ropes, boots, and a Bible — you can’t touch it, but you can experience it. The installation is juxtaposed to video of the Tennessee River that is projected across an entire wall, illuminating the story of how enslaved Black people crossed this river to seek freedom during the Civil War.
Crickets chirp in another area. As you keep walking, you can hear a soprano singing Deep River, a Negro spiritual. Next, you can sit on a red telephone stand, lift up the receiver and listen to Kim Weston sing the Black National Anthem.
It's all family and historical memory. Lovell, who has been studying art since the early 70s, was influenced by his grandparents' photo albums. He said the exhibition is a combination of series and projects that he’s done, which “tries to get people to think about history.”
“And to think about the lives who are no longer with us, our ancestors,” Lovell said.
Irvin Lippmann, Executive Director of the Boca Museum of Art, said the work “becomes haunting, but not in a scary way.”
“They become sort of souls that keep on living. And what they do is remind you how important history is,” Lippmann said.
Also on display through May 21st are paintings and sculptures by renowned Venezuelan artist Oswaldo Vigas.
His work, in the Focus Gallery on the second floor, explores his multicultural identity — his Indigenous, European, African, and Latin American heritage. His son, filmmaker Lorenzo Vigas, said his father’s abstract art, influenced by Surrealism and Cubism, also illustrates how history impacts the present.
It's for “the people that would see his work and to feel in an emotional way [about] the story of his roots,” Vigas said, at the exhibition's opening. “This is what he was trying to achieve with his work.”
The painting on display dates back to the 1950s and 1970s — in Paris and Venezuela.
And, much like Lovell, Vigas said his father’s work forces art goers to imagine a world beyond the present moment.
“It’s the opposite of being confined to your space and to your beliefs,” Vigas said. “It’s an art that makes you open your mind and try to see what comes from the past from Africa, from Latin America, from South American and from Europe.
“This is my father's message.”
IF YOU GO:
The Boca Museum of Art will unveil the two exhibitions on February 15. The exhibition runs through May 21. The address: 501 Plaza Real Boca Raton Florida, 33432 Current gallery hours are Wed - Fri - Sat - Sun: 11:00 am - 6:00 pm. Learn more here.