Michelangelo Lovelace, 1960 – 2021

Michelangelo Lovelace (1960 – 2021), My Home Town (1998), acrylic on canvas, 55 X 96 inches, collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art, gift of the artist.

Cleveland artist Michelangelo Lovelace had a long career of accomplishment that was further on the rise in recent years, with recognition both in Cleveland and beyond.  He passed away at 7:20 am Monday, April 26, after a bout with pancreatic cancer, according to his sister, Janine Lovelace. He had been diagnosed in April, 2020. He is survived by his wife Shirley Lovelace, and a large and loving family. He was 60 years old.

“There are few artists that represent Cleveland as well as he did,” said gallerist John Farina. He and his partner Adam Tully represented Lovelace in their gallery, Maria Neil Art Project, beginning in 2013—just as the artist was beginning to to draw significant recognition in Cleveland and, eventually, gallery representation in New York.

Michelangelo Lovelace, acrylic on canvas, 2019.

Lovelace attended the Cleveland Institute of Art, but did not graduate. He lived in the storied Hodge School for a time early in his career. He won Individual Excellence awards from the Ohio Arts Council in 1997 and 1999. He was archived by the Artists Archives of the Western Reserve in 2011. In 2013 he won a Creative Workforce Fellowship through the Community Partnership for the Arts and Culture, funded by Cuyahoga Arts and Culture. In 2015 he won the Cleveland Arts Prize for a mid-career artist.

“His serious social commentary about drugs, violence, and other community ills was peppered with humor and, in many instances, conveyed a sense of hope for the future of those neighborhoods.” Farina said.

Larry Lovelace, the artist’s nephew, says Michaelangelo was his idol, “ever since [he] learned [he] could draw. He was a truly wonderful man, a devoted husband to his wife Shirley, and father to his children, and friend to all in his presence.”

For his own part, Lovelace looked up to the late Cleveland outsider artist, the Reverend Albert Wagner.

Can Journal, Fall, 2019, cover art by Michelangelo Lovelace, Life After Dark, acrylic on canvas, 2019.

In a 2019 interview with Jimi Izrael for CAN, Lovelace said he discovered his artistic skill in elementary school at Mount Pleasant Elementary school, on Cleveland’s east side.  His mother told him he had inherited the skill from her father—his grandfather–who had wanted to be an artist but couldn’t, because where he lived (in Columbus Georgia) that was not an option for a Black man at the time.

Over the years he pursued a variety of artistic styles, even working in different media, from paintings to streetscape dioramas. He tried his hand at abstraction, and at the human figure. He created a series on Rodney King. For an exhibit at Maria Neal in 2016, when the Republican National Convention was in Cleveland, he painted a series using the American flag as a motif for sociopolitical criticism. But he remains most known for his urban street scenes.

Artrist Michelangelo Lovelace, at home in 2019.

According to his profile on the Artists Archives of the Western Reserve, he exhibited over the years at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, MD; Space Galleries & ClaySpace in Toledo, OH; The Cleveland Artist Foundation in Cleveland, OH; Zygote Press in Cleveland, OH; Headfooter Outsider Art Gallery in Cleveland, OH; among others. In Summer 2015 his work was featured in the exhibit How To Remain Human, at moCa Cleveland. His work My Home Town is part of the permanent collection at the Cleveland Museum of Art. It is an imaginative landscape built around the downtown skyline, with road signs demarking the historically divided and segregated east and west sides of the city. The canvas is crowded with people. On the east side, they are almost entirely Black. On the west side they are almost entirely white.

In 2018, while donating the painting to the Museum, he met Adam Shopkorn, owner of the Fort Gansevoort gallery in New York. He has been represented by Fort Gansevoort since then. In 2018 Fort Gansevoort presented his solo exhibition, The Land. In Fall 2019 the gallery presented his work in a solo show at Art Expo Chicago.

There will be a public viewing, but arrangements have yet to be announced.

Those who wish to support the Lovelace family’s medical and funeral expenses can do so via Shirley Lovelace’s cashapp: https://cash.app/$suga3231

The opinions expressed on CAN Blog are those of the individual writers. Art is somewhat subjective. Well, somewhat. But yes, everybody's a critic.

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