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Beth Sorensen
Office of Communications


An emotionally powerful interpretation of the lives of 1920s African American sharecroppers is on view January 28 through March 3, 2004

Portland, OR (December 22, 2003) - Whitfield Lovell: Whispers from the Walls , opening on January 28 at Reed College's Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Gallery, is a poignant and highly evocative installation piece that mixes found objects, photographs, wall drawings, and sound to create a sensory experience of African American life in the South in the 1920s.

Admission to the Cooley Gallery and its exhibitions is always free and open to the public. For information visit or call the gallery information line at 503/777-7790.

Whispers from the Walls is Whitfield Lovell's (b. 1959, New York) meticulous and personal installation of a reconstructed 1920s African American sharecropper's home from Quakertown, Texas. The home is surrounded by derelict clothing and populated by haunting graphite drawings of African Americans who were displaced from their land. The home contains the furnishings of lives lived in poverty, but rich in community, family, and faith.

The exhibition, part of a nexus of programming for Reed's observation of Black History Month in February 2004, will also inaugurate the Cooley Gallery's Open Gallery Program, an outreach initiative that brings Reed's exhibitions to the K-12 and higher education communities.

Special Lecture
Art historian Leslie King-Hammond will give a public lecture on the works of Whitfield Lovell and the late painter Jacob Lawrence on Thursday, February 12, at 7 p.m. in Reed's Vollum lecture hall. Admission to the lecture is free.

A contributor to the exhibition catalogue, King-Hammond has curated numerous exhibitions and written several books, including Celebration: Myth and Ritual in African American Art, Art as a Verb, Black Printmakers and the WPA and Three Generations of African American Women Sculptors: A Study in Paradox.

About Whispers from the Walls
Lovell's installation is a complex amalgam, steeped in concepts of presence, absence, memory, identity, history and loss. The centerpiece of the installation is a one-room shack surrounded by a profusion of tattered clothing. The inside of the house is filled with personal effects--pots and pans, tables and chairs, dime-store jewelry, a wrinkled suit on the back of a door--and life-size charcoal drawings of human figures. These masterfully drawn figures give the piece a strong human presence as their haunting, silent imminence speaks to us in whispers, not shouts.

Lovell's exploration of African American life is further enhanced by added layers of sensory experience, from the scents of musty fabric, a half-filled decanter of whiskey, and fresh flowers in a vase to the sounds of a 1920s blues tune that seem to emanate from an old record player. The effect is to make the viewer feel at once like an intruder in the present and a visitor to the past.

Lovell created this piece after a series of deaths in his tightly knit family sparked an interest in exploring his family's history and in collecting old photographs found in flea markets and antique stores.

"By combining powerful, almost magical drawing with found and salvaged domestic objects, and with sounds and smells and textures, [Lovell] creates scenes that extend into the space of the viewer and convey both a sense of theater and a semblance of votive shrines," said noted art critic and curator Lilly Wei.

Nancy Princenthal, a contributing editor for Art in America , wrote, "A world in one room, [Whitfield Lovell's Whispers from the Walls ] is as condensed and considered in every detail as a dream or the surface of a painting, and in its grip the visitor/viewer feels both uncomfortably big and reduced to a state of dreamy transport."

Whitfield Lovell
Lovell was born in 1959 and grew up in the Bronx. His mother's family is from the South and his father's is from the Barbados. A graduate of Cooper Union in New York, Whitfield Lovell has been widely exhibited worldwide. His work is included in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the National Museum of American Art, the Seattle Art Museum and others.

Closing Reception
A special talk by Portland artist damali ayo at 7 p.m. is followed by a reception, open to the public, that marks the closing of the Lovell exhibition at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, March 3 in the Reed student union.

Exhibition Catalogue
Whispers from the Walls is accompanied by a catalogue published by the University of North Texas, with essays by Lucy R. Lippard and Jennifer Ellen Way and photographs of all the artist's installation projects.

The exhibition is curated and organized by Diana Block, director of the University of North Texas Art Gallery in Denton, and toured by ExhibitsUSA, a national division of Mid-America Arts Alliance, a private, non-profit organization founded in 1972 and assisted by the NEA, its six partner state art agencies, and private contributors. Special funding for Whispers from the Walls has been provided by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Open Gallery Program
Encouraged by the educational richness of the Lovell exhibition, the Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery submitted a grant proposal to the Regional Arts and Culture Council in order to develop meaningful educational programming around the show. The proposal was accepted, and a new gallery initiative was launched - the Open Gallery Program.

The Lovell exhibition inaugurates the Cooley Gallery's new Open Gallery program, an outreach initiative that brings Reed's exhibitions to the K-12 and higher education communities. Lovell's installation addresses race, identity, and history, and the Cooley Gallery has been working closely with Reed's Multicultural Enrichment Committee to foster greater dialogue and collaboration between the gallery and faculty members addressing diversity at Reed.

Through the Open Gallery Program, Reed undergraduate students will train as docents in order to bring Cooley Gallery exhibitions to the K-12 educational community. The Cooley Gallery is forming partnerships with public elementary, middle, and high schools in Portland, targeting nearby elementary schools for special hands-on activities. Reed docents will teach about exhibitions in two primary ways: by leading tours in the gallery, and by giving talks in school classrooms.

To develop interpretive skills, Reed students will investigate pedagogical methodology, engaging in training with the director and assistant director of the Cooley Gallery, the Open Gallery program coordinator, and the exhibition design staff at the gallery. One educational goal is to give the student docents a sense of art interpretation as it is practiced in museum education. This is a valuable skill to learn and something that students don't usually engage in as they study art history and studio art: essentially this program will give students a brief immersion in teaching.

Black History Month
The Lovell exhibition is part of Reed College's celebration of Black History Month in February 2004. Other events include lectures by Lani Guinier, Harvard law professor, author, and activist; Elijah Anderson, professor of social sciences and sociology at the University of Pennsylvania and an expert on the sociology of blacks in America; Lucille Clifton, winner of the National Book Award; and an installation by Portland artist damali ayo.

The Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery
The mission of the Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery is to enhance the academic offerings of Reed College with a diverse range of scholarly exhibitions, lectures, and colloquia.

The Cooley Gallery is open Tuesday through Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. The gallery is in Reed's Hauser Memorial Library. Parking is available nearby, and the #19 bus stops on Woodstock at the campus entrance near the library. Special group tours can be arranged. The exhibition and accompanying events are free and open to the public.

For images or further press material, please contact Beth Sorensen, Office of Communications, at 503/777-7574 or at .

Reed College, in Portland, Oregon, is an undergraduate institution of the liberal arts and sciences dedicated to sustaining the highest intellectual standards in the country. With an enrollment of about 1,360 students, Reed ranks third in the undergraduate origins of Ph.D.s in the United States and second in the number of Rhodes scholars from a liberal arts college (31 since 1915).

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