Michelangelo Lovelace: Art Saved My Life

Karl and Bertl Arnstein Galleries
May 4 - August 18, 2024

When Michelangelo Lovelace (1960–2021) spoke about his life and career as an artist, he almost always began 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.”

But art didn’t save Lovelace’s life just because it kept him out of prison, or just because it eventually allowed him to buy his own home. It did much more: “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,” he 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.”

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.

Lovelace recalled that an art teacher gave him another important piece of advice: “No matter what you go through, paint through it, do not stop painting.”

Related Events

Tuesday, July 23, 2024
10:00 – 11:00 am

Member Exclusive: Blacklight Tour of Michelangelo Lovelace: Art Saved My Life 10 am

NOTE THERE ARE TWO OPTIONS FOR THIS EVENT, 10 AM AND 3 PM, SELECT IN EVENTBRITE Step into a world where art transcends the ordinary and embraces the extraordinary on our captivating blacklight tour at the heart of the Akron Art Museum exhibition, Michelangelo Lovelace: Art Saved My Life. Delve into the mesmerizing realm of fluorescent colors as they come to life under the ethereal glow of blacklight, illuminating hidden depths and vibrant hues within the artwork. Witness firsthand how blacklight unveils crucial details, unlocking secrets imperceptible to the naked eye and shedding light on the meticulous work for conservation professionals. Join us on this illuminating journey as we uncover the enigmatic narratives and hidden treasures concealed within, promising an unforgettable experience where art meets intrigue and discovery awaits at every turn. UV glasses will be provided.. Limited capacity - advance online reservations are required. Michelangelo Lovelace, Good People with Bad Habits, 2015, Courtesy of the estate and Fort Gansevoort. © Michelangelo Lovelace Estate