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Whitfield Lovell


Not on view



Charcoal on wood with found objects

Overall: 107 3/4 × 74 3/4 × 42in. (273.7 × 189.9 × 106.7 cm)

Accession number

Credit line
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from an anonymous donor

Rights and reproductions
© 2000 Whitfield Lovell

In Shine, Whitfield Lovell drew life-size charcoal renderings of three African American figures on vintage wood panels that lean against the wall. These images were culled from the artist’s personal archive of over 600 early twentieth-century photographs of anonymous African Americans posing in their “Sunday best.” Lovell has related the assembly of objects in his installations to that of a shrine, where each component has its proper place. Here, he has attached leather dress shoes to the lower area of the wooden panels, their soles facing the viewer, and placed a shoeshine set-up on the floor in front of the panels.  These objects, as well as the work’s title, suggest that Lovell has imagined the vocation of the anonymous young men in the photograph—shoe shining was one of the limited work options available to African-American men in the early twentieth century. Through his memorial-like combinations of objects and images, Lovell seeks to invoke traces of a lost past. As the artist remarked: “The installations are about memory and heritage, and the markings that the past has made—and continues to make—on who we are. . .There is very little visual evidence of ordinary African Americans except for the photographs they left behind. When looking at an old photograph or tintype, I’m intrigued by the fact that it may be the only image of that person left on this planet.”



A 30-second online art project:
LaTurbo Avedon, Morning Mirror / Evening Mirror

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