MICHELANGELO LOVELACE: ART SAVED MY LIFE: A Retrospective Exhibition Opens At Akron Art Museum

On view: Saturday, May 4th – Sunday, August 18th, 2024.

By: May. 04, 2024
MICHELANGELO LOVELACE: ART SAVED MY LIFE: A Retrospective Exhibition Opens At Akron Art Museum
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Beginning May 4, 2024, Akron Art Museum will present Michelangelo Lovelace: Art Saved My Life, the first museum retrospective devoted to the artistic career of the late Michelangelo Lovelace (1960-2021). The exhibition will feature his iconic cityscapes of urban life, portraits of patients in his day-to-day work as a nursing assistant, dioramas, and an immersive and interactive space inspired by the Museum's recent acquisition of Lovelace's Hood Life. 

Michelangelo Lovelace pinpointed the origin of his artistic career with this story: As a teenager growing up in Cleveland's King Kennedy public housing complex, Lovelace dropped out of school to support his family. When he was nineteen, he was arrested for selling marijuana and appeared before a judge.

In his own telling, the judge asked him: “‘What can you do?' So, I told him I could draw. He said ‘Well, you come back down here again, I'm sending you to prison. You'd better stick to drawing.'” Lovelace took that advice to heart: “I'm one of those people who say, ‘Art saved my life,' and it truly did.”

Lovelace's art is proof that he meant what he said. In his twenties he attended the Cleveland Institute of Art, but again he dropped out of school, this time to make a living for his own children. Still, he crafted his own style, seeking energy and directness. He depicted crime, drugs, poverty, and sin, but also community, compassion, progress, and salvation. He portrayed the environment he knew—the bricks of public housing, advertising billboards, familiar intersections—but also political events, social allegories, and himself. As a dedicated and prolific painter, he hoped for ideas and experiences to flow straight from his mind to the canvas, as honestly and forthrightly as he could manage.

“Michelangelo Lovelace perfected a unique visual language, and he used it with truly impressive frankness and insight, sharing deeply personal experiences and addressing dire issues.” Says Senior Curator Dr. Jeff Katzin.

“Art allows me to stay human, it allows me to have an opinion, it allows me to express myself, and through art I feel alive,” [Lovelace] said. “I feel like people are listening to me and appreciating what I have to say, and what I feel. So that's how I stay human, I use art as my vehicle to stay alive.”

About the Artist

Michelangelo Lovelace (1960-2021) grew up in Cleveland, Ohio where he worked for most of his life. His work has been presented in solo exhibitions at Springfield Museum of Art in Ohio, Cleveland School of the Arts, Progressive Insurance Corporate Headquarters, and University of Illinois at Chicago. He has been included in group exhibitions at MOCA Cleveland, Cleveland State University Art Gallery, the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and Case Western Reserves University. Lovelace won the Cleveland Arts Prize Mid-Career Artist in 2015 and multiple Ohio Arts Council Individual Artist Grants for Painting. His work is included in the permanent collection of Akron Art Museum, Akron, OH; Allen Memorial Art Museum at Oberlin College, Oberlin, OH; Artist Archives of the Western Reserve, Cleveland, OH; Bunker Artspace, West Palm Beach, FL; Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH; Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, OH; Figge Art Museum, Davenport, IA; JP Morgan Chase Art Collection, New York, NY; Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, MO; McEvoy Foundation for the Arts, San Francisco, CA; Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Durham, NC; Progressive Insurance Collection, Mayfield Village, OH; Springfield Museum of Art, Springfield, OH; Studio Museum, New York, NY; and Weisman Art Museum, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN.

Akron Art Museum's exhibition, Michelangelo Lovelace: Art Saved My Life, will be on view at Akron Art Museum, 1 South High Street, Akron, Ohio from Saturday, May 4th, 2024, to Sunday, August 18th, 2024. Akron Art Museum is open Wednesday through Sunday from 11AM to 5PM.


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