A new online exhibition of works by American artist Michelangelo Lovelace is as enjoyable as it is relevant. The exhibition brings into intimate focus some of the US’s most marginalised individuals: the elderly, specifically those living in care homes. During these unprecedented times brought on by the pandemic, his works are especially necessary and poignant.
“Nightshift,” available online through Fort Gansevoort gallery, is Lovelace’s third exhibition in an ongoing web-based series titled “SEEING THROUGH YOU.” For more than three decades, Lovelace has worked as a nurse’s aide in addition to his career as an artist and has drawn many of the people for which he’s cared. Thus, “Nightshift” becomes the intersection of both of his careers.
While he’s perhaps best known for his vivid city scenes, the drawings featured in “Nightshift” highlight the elderly who lived in the hospitals and care homes where he worked in the Cleveland, Ohio area. Since 1993, Lovelace has stolen away the spare moments he could, taking the opportunity to draw those he worked with on a daily basis, but are so often forgotten in American society.
Some images are bright sketches, brought to life with colourful, expressionistic marker strokes, while others are laden with pattern created with a standard ball-point pen. What brings them together, though, is the raw intimacy of staring into the eyes of the sitters and absorbing their environment, their reality. The emotion in Lovelace’s works is palpable and you can feel the relationship that he had with each of the people he depicted.
In a word, the works are striking, particularly as the world reals in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has disproportionately affected the elderly. The virus has forced America, among other countries, to face societal biases and ongoing issues of care that essentially erase the elderly within society. “[T]he COVID-19 crisis didn’t create the problems in nursing homes,” read one NPR interview about US care homes during the pandemic. “It exposed the problems that were already there.” Meanwhile, “Nightshift” gives a face to those at the mercy of the cracks exposed during the.
Lovelace is no stranger to confronting difficult topics like this, though. “My paintings deal with many of the issues that affect poor inner-city communities in the United States: issues like poverty, crime, drugs, education, police brutality, health care, and other day-to-day happenings,” wrote the artist of his works. “Nightshift” is no different. The exhibition humanises a population who rely on others for even the most basic needs. His works “celebrate the accumulated experience and enduring life force that define each individual as singular and substantial in spite of being deemed negligible by society at large.”
As part of the exhibition, virtual visitors can read a conversation between Lovelace and John Ahearn, organiser of “Nightshift.” In their conversation, Ahearn draws connections between Lovelace’s works and that of Vincent van Gogh, Alice Neel, and Henri Rousseau, among others. As a whole, the exhibition is not to be missed.
Below is a selection of works presented by Michelangelo Lovelace in “Nightshift” through July 9th. See the entire exhibition online at Fort Ganesvoort.