This essay examines recent work by the American artist Whitfield Lovell, who has been collecting and using vintage accoutrements—the material culture of late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century African American life, including photographs—for many years. He is best known for his installations and tableaux, combinations of superb charcoal and Conté crayon drawings, on weathered wooden planks or cream paper, and found objects. As an artist who draws inspiration from history and the material culture of a bygone era, Lovell doesn’t set out to teach us history, but the subjects and objects he brings together necessarily encourage us to deepen our knowledge of African and American history and culture. Works discussed include Lovell’s 2008 Kith and Kin exhibition at D. C. Moore Gallery in New York and his Kin Series, an ongoing sequence of images and tableaux dedicated to African Americans in the military. An endeavor that has not yet reached its conclusion, Lovell’s Kin Series takes us autour du monde. Grounded in the source materials of his immediate and personal ancestry, the American South, the Caribbean, and the Bronx, and drawing on the relational currents of the Black Atlantic, Lovell’s work is both rooted and expansive. Perhaps no other exhibition of Lovell’s recent work has linked “home” and “away” so clearly as Kith and Kin.

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