Wednesday, June 12, 2024
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In Memoriam: Artists, Curators, and Friends Reflect on Life and Work of Master Printer Lou Stovall: An ‘Outstanding Fine Artist’ and ‘Heartbeat of Washington, D.C., Art Scene’


Lou Stovall (1937-2023) at Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C., 2018. | Copyright © 2018 Freed Photography Inc., All Rights Reserved

 

LOU STOVALL (1937-2023) PUT WASHINGTON, D.C., on the printmaking map. In 1968, he established Workshop Inc., a silkscreen studio designed to “reach new audiences, connect with political movements, and create opportunities for a diverse group of artists” to work in a new medium. He first produced an array of collectible community posters before focusing on limited-edition fine art projects. Stovall presided over an eight-foot screenprinting station he built himself, turning out hard line and painterly works in collaboration with Jacob Lawrence, Sam Gilliam, Gene Davis, Elizabeth Catlett, and many others. Employing a facility for color with a variety of inventive techniques using stencils, tools, brushes, solvents, and his bare hands, he produced outcomes that surpassed the presumed limits of printmaking and, on occasion, arguably made improvements on originals.

A singular artist, master printer, and pioneering figure in the silkscreen medium, Stovall died on March 3. He was 86. He was my friend.

Born in Athens, Ga., and raised in Springfield, Mass., Stovall arrived in Washington in 1962 to attend Howard University. He was 25 years old and already familiar with printmaking. Stovall studied with James A. Porter and David C. Driskell, as well as James Lesesne Wells, whose instruction helped hone his silkscreen skills. He counted Lloyd McNeill, Mary Lovelace O’Neal, Sylvia Snowden, Leo Robinson, and Stokley Carmichael among his friends at Howard. At the HBCU, he began to build a community and a printing practice that would sustain him for a lifetime.

Stovall believed in sharing knowledge. Through the decades, he taught a succession of budding artists and creatives who worked as studio assistants at Workshop. His collaborations with dozens of artists are now represented in major public and private collections around the world. Stovall also maintained his own artistic practice over the years, producing a series of floral portraits, poetic landscapes, and incredible abstractions—drawings, prints, and collages that reflect his love of color and nature. Recent exhibitions at The Columbus Museum, Georgia Museum of Art, Kreeger Museum, and Phillips Collection have been dedicated to his art. A new book “Of the Land: The Art and Poetry of Lou Stovall” is a visual and literary gem showcasing his art, poetry, and a personal narrative about his life and work titled “My Story.”

The passing of Stovall and the recent deaths of his friends and fellow Washington artists Gilliam and Driskell mark the end of an era. “Lou Stovall was such a pillar in the Washington, D.C., arts community that it is difficult to imagine anyone bridging the enormous gap left by his passing…” said Howard University Professor Gwendolyn H. Everett. National Gallery of Art Director Kaywin Feldman said Stovall “will be remembered as the heartbeat of the Washington, D.C., arts scene for more than five decades.”

Culture Type reached out to artists, curators, and friends seeking remembrances of Stovall and received an outpouring. Multiple people called him “legendary” and described him as a “perfectionist.” They also noted his kindness and generosity. Mary Lovelace O’Neal attended Howard with Stovall. The artist said that under the watchful eye of Driskell, she had an arrangement with Stovall. O’Neal gave him her lunch or lunch money and he made her stretcher bars for her. More than two dozen others shared anecdotes and experiences with Stovall. Presented in alphabetical order, their memories are amusing, heartfelt, and historic:

 


Lou Stovall printing “Exanthema of Clouds” (1974) in the living room of his Cleveland Park home, before he converted a garage behind the home into the permanent base of Workshop Inc. | Courtesy Lou Stovall Workshop

 

Jonathan P. Binstock
Director & CEO, The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.

LOU STOVALL LEFT AN INDELIBLE MARK on the Washington arts scene and beyond, and on artists and audiences alike. He pushed boundaries as an artist, printmaker and activist, just to name a few roles in his extraordinary and influential career. I was inspired when hearing him speak about his work, and also by his humility when he discussed his legacy or when lauded for his accomplishments. He was an innovator, a passionate collaborator, and a powerful steward of expression. Presenting his retrospective at The Phillips Collection last summer was an honor for all of us; his exhibition resonated deeply with staff and patrons. We are all richer for knowing him. He will be missed.

 

Camille Brown
Assistant Curator, The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.

THE FIRST TIME I MET LOU STOVALL, he was talking about Lois Mailou Jones. I was visiting his exhibition at The Kreeger Museum with a few colleagues, and he happened to be there, holding court amongst prints he’d helped produce. To talk with Lou was to be surprised by him, by his memory, his humor, and his willingness to teach. He was a curator’s dream, the way he could casually recall a joke shared with Jeff Donaldson, a technique developed with Sam Gilliam. In the brief time I was able to get to know Mr. Stovall, his love of printmaking was palpable, as was his connection to this city and teaching. He’ll be sorely missed.

 


Installation view of “Lou Stovall: The Museum Workshop,” The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. (July 23-Oct. 9, 2022), guest curated by Will Stovall. Shown at center, LOU STOVALL, “PEACE,” 1968 (silkscreen poster, 5 parts: 35 x 23 inches each). | © Lou Stovall, Workshop Inc.

 

Kinshasha Holman Conwill
Deputy Director Emerita, Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture, Washington, D.C.

REMEMBERING LOU STOVALL. The last time I saw Lou Stovall and his wife Di was at the memorial for Sam Gilliam, his good friend, fellow artist, and frequent collaborator in the production of Sam’s printmaking. By then, Lou had become an eminent force in the local and national art world. In my life, he was a decades-long inspiration in the formation of my creative personality, in the earliest years of my development as an artist.

In my high school and college years in Washington, Lou was a figure who loomed large in my life and imagination and a formidable influence in the life of the city and his fellow artists. He and his wife Di were critical participants in the Washington D.C., artistic scene. Lou was part of a group of artists, musicians, poets, and activists whose lives were deeply influential to me and many of my peers.

Lou, musician and visual artist Lloyd McNeill, and designer and filmmaker Topper Carew, among others, served as beacons and their visual language in prints, posters, and art in all media, formed the pervasive and highly influential language and landscape of 1960s art, setting the stage for decades of a profoundly robust visual vocabulary that was as lyrical and enticing as McNeill’s flute mastery.

Later when I entered Howard University’s College of Fine Arts, where I met my husband Houston, other artists, some of whom were my teachers, but all of whom were my influences or mentors, enriched the ground originally toiled by Lou and his contemporaries. At Howard that included Jeff Donaldson, Tritobia Benjamin, Ed Love, Lois Mailou Jones, and Starmanda Bullock. Houston and I were early adopters of print making and spent many hours in the studio creating prints in regular exchanges with fellow students, including Martha Jackson Jarvis and Wendy Wilson. We eagerly took to the medium at which Lou excelled. Read More

Lou Stovall, Lloyd McNeil and Topper Carew “served as beacons and their visual language in prints, posters, and art in all media, formed the pervasive and highly influential language and landscape of 1960s art…”
— Kinshasha Holman Conwill

 


Lou Stovall with Jacob Lawrence signing “Dondon” from his The Life of Toussaint L’Ouverture series in the dining room of Stovall’s Cleveland Park home, 1992. | Courtesy Lou Stovall Workshop

 

Harry Cooper
Senior Curator and Head of Modern Art
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

I GOT TO KNOW LOU EARLY AND LATE. Early — because I grew up in the D.C. area in the late 1960s and 70s, when his distinctive graphic work was part of my visual landscape, from the Lloyd McNeill album on my shelf to the posters I saw around town. Late — because it was only after I came to the National Gallery in 2008 that I got to know Lou as a person, artist, neighbor, friend. We came from such different places but had so many enthusiasms in common: poetry, jazz, art, nature! Getting to know him, I came to know Di and Will and some of his friends and to understand how revered he was in the community that he had done so much to create. Writing about Lou’s work for “Of the Land: The Art and Poetry of Lou Stovall” was a pleasure and an honor. I only wish I had had more years with this beautiful soul.

“We came from such different places but had so many enthusiasms in common: poetry, jazz, art, nature! Getting to know him, I came to know Di and Will and some of his friends and to understand how revered he was in the community that he had done so much to create.… I only wish I had had more years with this beautiful soul.” — Harry Cooper

 

Edward De Luca
Director, DC Moore Gallery, New York, N.Y.

LOU STOVALL WAS A TRULY GIFTED MAN and artist whose contributions to 20th century and contemporary American art were valued by curators, historians, and especially his fellow artists. Lou had the visual sensibility and artistry to create and translate an image and idea into a masterful print. By founding The Workshop he was able to collaborate with many of his contemporaries such as Jacob Lawrence and Gwendolyn Knight who always expressed to me their gratitude and extreme pleasure of working with him over many years. Lou was a kind and generous man who will be missed.

 


Installation view of “What’s Going Around: Lou Stovall and the Community Poster, 1967-76,” Hemphill Artworks, Washington, D.C. (June 12-July 17, 2021). From left, DI STOVALL, “The Amen Corner, Federal City College,” 1968; LLOYD MCNEILL, LOU STOVALL, “King Lear, Arena Stage,” 1968; LLOYD MCNEILL, LOU STOVALL, “Arena Stage 68-69,” 1968; LOU STOVALL, “Howard Three Plays – Howard University,” 1970. | Courtesy Hemphill Artworks

 

Mary Early
Artist and Director, Hemphill Artworks, Washington, D.C.

I WAS LUCKY TO GET TO KNOW LOU in recent years as a result of the threads connecting all of Washington’s artists of the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. As a printmaker, he found a natural spot in the center of it all, and was willing to give his time and expertise freely to others—artists, students, community members, activists. What today’s artists might be unaware of is how the technical know-how, tools, and workspace shared between artists creates a bond, a responsibility, an allegiance, and solidarity, some would call it brotherhood or sisterhood. In the summer of 2021, in the middle of the pandemic, Lou, Di, and Will’s show “What’s Going Around: Lou Stovall & the Community Poster, 1967 – 1976” opened at Hemphill Artworks, to an audience that was ripe to see and hear the message of what happens when a community comes together. I can’t put into words what it meant to be a part of it.

 

Allan Edmunds
Artist and Founder, Brandywine Workshop and Archives, Philadelphia, Pa.

LOU STOVALL WAS ONE OF THE FIRST PROFESSIONAL ARTISTS I visited after graduation from undergraduate school. I was on a mission to meet as many Black printmakers as possible since there were so few in 1967, and Stovall, like Bob Blackburn, had already been recognized for excellence in establishing a production print workshop noted for his collaborations with many of the most celebrated African American artists of the period. During my visit to his printmaking workshop, he was very gracious and generous, showing me a particular technique and encouraging me to pursue my dreams.

Throughout his life, Lou Stovall was a role model for his and my generation that followed. I was in awe of his success and along with Bob Blackburn, I found the shinning stars that would help guide my own journey as a printmaker and collaborator. Evidence of Lou Stovall’s impact remains in the body of artworks he created, the art he helped artists to realize, and his many services to the Washington, D.C., community he was such an integral part of as a representative in its institutions, advisor/consultant, and distinguished member of the African American artists community.

“Throughout his life, Lou Stovall was a role model for his and my generation that followed. I was in awe of his success and along with Bob Blackburn, I found the shinning stars that would help guide my own journey as a printmaker and collaborator.” — Allan Edmunds

 


Lou Stovall made “Breathing Hope” in tribute to Howard University’s new incoming president H. Patrick Swygert. | LOU STOVALL, “Breathing Hope,” 1996 (color screenprint on wove paper, 16 x 16 inches). CP edition of 8. | © Lou Stovall, Published by The Workshop Inc.

 

Gwendolyn H. Everett
Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs and Associate Professor of Art History, Howard University, Washington, D.C.

BREATHING HOPE: REMEMBERING LOU STOVALL. Lou Stovall (1937-2023) was such a pillar in the Washington, D.C., arts community that it is difficult to imagine anyone bridging the enormous gap left by his passing on March 3, 2023. If you were fortunate to have been among those who were friends, collaborators, and associates, you know how deep this divide feels because Lou could indeed bring individuals from varying backgrounds, political affiliations, artistic skills, and explorations together in unmatched ways.

His affable personality made one immediately feel at home when one entered his Workshop. This legendary space where art and enterprise, collaboration and ingenuity merged into a magical environment. One would marvel at Lou’s ability to translate the work of artist peers into fantastical multidimensional prints, while at the same time creating the most whimsical conversation between nature and humanity in his own works. “Breathing Hope” (1996), a silkscreen print created for Howard University, for example, is a testament to his artistry as a master printmaker and his notable gift to encourage all to search for beauty in nature and in life. We will be forever grateful to have known him and wish that his remarkable life and art will continue to inspire all to fulfill his desire for a hope-filled world.

 

Kaywin Feldman
Director, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

LOU WILL BE REMEMBERED AS THE HEARTBEAT of the Washington, D.C., arts scene for more than five decades. His contributions were tremendous, as he not only developed his own recognized oeuvre and style, but also inspired, taught, and worked alongside generations of artists who benefited greatly from his joyous demeanor and creative methods in the Workshop. At the National Gallery, Lou was a beloved member of our Trustees’s Council and always such an enthusiastic advocate for this institution.

I will cherish my time with Lou. His warm, gracious manner was matched by a great generosity of spirit, and it is little wonder he commanded such respect and admiration. We were honored to have Lou involved at the National Gallery, and we will miss him enormously.

 


National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., March 17, 2017: Artist panel moderated by Ruth Fine during Wyeth Foundation for American Art Symposium entitled, “The African American Art World in Twentieth-Century Washington, D.C.,” presented by the National Gallery’s Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts. From left, artists Lou Stovall, Martin Puryear, Keith Morrison, Sam Gilliam, and David Driskell. | © 2017 Board of Trustees, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

 

Ruth Fine
Curator and Artist, Philadelphia, Pa.

MEMORIES OF LOU STOVALL. Lou and his wife and partner, Di, were among the first artists I met when I moved to Washington in 1980, for a curatorial post at the National Gallery of Art. I visited Lou at his screenprinting workshop frequently until I left the city in 2010, but our contact continued after that. During this past decade, he had given more focus to his own prints and drawings, which had taken second place during his younger years, when he was most attentive to the prints he produced for others.

Lou’s basic curiosity and strong collaborative spirit expanded his awareness of the capacities of screenprinting to meet the widely differing needs of dozens of artists— including the figuration of Jacob Lawrence and the abstraction of Sam Gilliam. Lou’s multi-faceted skills are legendary among Washington’s artistic community and beyond.

Lou’s own work encompasses both poles—meticulous representation, especially detailing natural forms, and a variety of approaches to non-representational imagery. He was a perfectionist at both, and an intellectual who loved to talk about his own work when called upon to do it; but he more often discussed his collaborations. Lou was essentially community oriented; and his son Will, has likewise embraced Lou and Di’s inclusive spirit, and has been organizing exhibitions and writing about Lou’s art, attending to his legacy.

 

James Larry Frazier, Esq.
Washington, D.C.

NOT ONLY WAS LOU AN OUTSTANDING FINE ARTIST and master printmaker, he was an exceptional humanitarian. I recall this when I collaborated with Lou and Sam Gilliam to produce the silkscreen, “ARS,” to raise funds for a dying friend in 2003. Although she passed before we finished, the funds were used to help other artists. Lou also promoted artists by including them in the collections he curated for major law firms and businesses. With regard to his framing skills, his mats were very precise and always complemented the works.

I first got to know Lou when Lois Mailou Jones hired me to resolve a dispute between the two of them about the division of prints involving “A Shady Nook: Le Jardin du Luxembourg Paris” (1991). He was so impressed with how I handled the matter, he framed my print gratis. We became the best of friends. With the passing of David Driskell, and Sam, and now Lou—all three my friends and mentors, I will uphold their legacies and forever cherish the myriad experiences I had with them.

“I first got to know Lou when Lois Mailou Jones hired me to resolve a dispute between the two of them about the division of prints involving ‘A Shady Nook: Le Jardin du Luxembourg Paris’ (1991). He was so impressed with how I handled the matter, he framed my print gratis. We became the best of friends.” — Larry Frazier, Esq.

 


JEFF DONALDSON, Victory in the Valley of Eshu,” 1971 (color screenprint on cream wove paper, 36 x 26 1/2 inches). This print was featured in the international traveling exhibition “Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power.” | Printed by Lou Stovall, Workshop Inc., Published by AfriCOBRA

 

Nigel Freeman
Director, African American Art, Swann Auction Galleries, New York, N.Y.

WE WERE VERY SADDENED TO HEAR THE NEWS of the passing of the great Lou Stovall in early March. Lou Stovall was a master printmaker, artist, and a legendary figure in the Washington, D.C., art community. Stovall’s eloquent command of the screenprint lead to many wonderful collaborations, producing significant prints with many artists, including Elizabeth Catlett, Louis Delsarte, Jeff Donaldson, Sam Gilliam, Jacob Lawrence, and Lloyd McNeill. Here at Swann Galleries, we are privileged to see the mastery of his printmaking every day. His printmaking is at the very center of our art auctions. Stovall has clearly made an indelible mark on the history of American Art and printmaking.

 

Reggie Govan
Friend and Neighbor, Washington, D.C.

ALREADY I MISS LOU—draughtsman, silk-screen artist, master printer, poet, furniture maker, framer and, foremost, my friend of several decades.

Lou was a prodigious talent and perfectionist. He strove to create art revealing all that is beautiful in our world. He expanded the boundaries of silkscreen printing to reflect subtle colors and capture nuanced textures. Who, other than Lou, would draw, freehand, a perfect straight line or cut stencils, in his backyard studio (often at the midnight hour), that later would encapsulate MJQ’s (Modern Jazz Quartet’s) driving rhythms, Pavarotti’s powerful vocal instrumentation or an Irish folk ballad’s mellifluous sound?

Lou was a generous spirit. He included me in family dinners with Jacob and Gwendolyn Lawrence, David Driskell, and Sam Gilliam, and also showed up, unannounced, to help me one Saturday morning, spending the day packing artwork in advance of a move. By enlisting my, albeit limited, skills during his late-night printing and stacking parties with artists and including me in discussions as they refined and, ultimately, signed and numbered the edition, Lou deepened my knowledge, understanding and appreciation of all artwork. Read More

 


Lou Stovall with Sam Gilliam signing screenprint titled “Journey Home” (2002) at Workshop Inc., Cleveland Park Studio, 2002. | Photo by John Woo

 

Shawnya L. Harris
Larry D. and Brenda A. Thompson Curator of African American and African Diasporic Art, Georgia Museum of Art, Athens, Ga.

LOU STOVALL’S LEGENDARY STATUS as an artist and collaborator was something I had known for years. But my first time meeting him was over a Zoom call during the height of the pandemic and finally, when our museum awarded him the Larry D. and Brenda A. Thompson Award. Presenting the award to Lou became more important to us once it was realized that Lou, although born in Athens, Georgia, had not visited his original hometown since his family left during his youth. Some old friends who knew Lou since his days at Howard, but live in Athens, welcomed him home and we pointed out the location where his family would have lived. Ironically, it was not far from where he and his family lodged. At the award ceremony, it was very moving to hear him read his own original poetry which accompanied many of the screenprints he produced over the years. Di and Lou’s son, Will, suggested that this trip to Athens and the award and coinciding exhibition were meaningful to him and I was just happy that we could salute him.

 

Maurice Jackson
Associate Professor of history, African American Studies, and Music (Jazz) Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.

AS WITH MY LATE FRIEND, the Jazz pianist Randy Weston, the first time I spoke in depth with Lou we both said “it’s almost like we have known each other forever.“ We told stories about old friends Gaston Neal and Amiri Baraka. And I told him that we had met years ago at John Eaton Elementary School when he came with Jacob Lawrence and I was one of the starstruck parents watching the masters bring joy to our little ones.

Later, we would talk in his studio as we listened to opera. I surprised him with a CD of Baroque duets with Wynton Marsalis and Kathleen Battle and another with Marsalis and Edita Gruberová, expressing a love for the music he loved for an entirely different reason than he did. Lou believed that “we like to do things for people we believe in.” He believed in Alma Thomas, Elizabeth Catlett, Lois Mailou Jones, David Driskell, and Sam Gilliam and he believed in Will and Di. He believed in aiding less fortunate people in parts of Washington, D.C., and in the art and the artists who have tried to make their lives meaningful and productive using art. He once said “I think I’ve accomplished a lot, but the challenges are still there today….”

The challenges that Lou faced, we all face. To paraphrase Dr. King, “How to make a living yet also make a life.” How to create an inner peace, and a joy, in ourselves when we work to create an outer peace and a joy in a society that often pits us against each other. Lou’s work and his teaching will endure. And for me, his kindness, mission and his singular vision will remain, forever.

 


JACOB LAWRENCE, “Revolt on the Amistad,” 1989 (color screenprint on wove paper, (image: 35 x 25 3/4 inches/ sheet: 40 1/8 x 32 1/8 inches). Edition of 120 | © The Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation, Seattle / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; Printed by Lou Stovall, Workshop Inc., Published by Spradling Ames

 

Franz Jantzen
Curator’s Office, Supreme Court of the United States, Washington, D.C.

IN 2019, THE SUPREME COURT HAD THE GOOD FORTUNE to acquire an original lithograph of Jacob Lawrence’s “Revolt on the Amistad” (1989) with funds from the Supreme Court Historical Society, and I felt such a powerful piece deserved an article in their quarterly magazine. During research, I learned it had been printed by Lou Stovall, so I reached out to a mutual friend for an introduction.

I visited the Stovalls and we sat around their dining room table for a couple hours one afternoon as they explained the silkscreen process and Lou’s working relationship with Lawrence. When they learned we had not received an original Print Documentation form with “Amistad” as we were meant to, they generously donated one from their file, which includes the signatures of both artists. Afterwards they were generous with their time in answering my follow-up questions. I am richer for having met Lou and Di, and grateful for their hospitality and generosity.

In 2022, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson chose “Revolt on the Amistad” to hang above her mantle in her private office in Chambers.

“In 2019, the Supreme Court had the good fortune to acquire an original lithograph of Jacob Lawrence’s ‘Revolt on the Amistad’ (1989) with funds from the Supreme Court Historical Society… In 2022, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson chose [the work] to hang above her mantle in her private office in Chambers.” — Franz Jantzen

 

Julie L. McGee
Associate Professor of Africana Studies and Art History, University of Delaware

LOU STOVALL, THE ARTIST, PRINTMAKER, poet, and friend took joy in retreating to the studio with his visitors. I knew Lou’s Workshop as a place of rhythm, rhyme, and skillful improvisation—a studio filled with the joy of making. To know Lou Stovall is to know his love for Di and Will—a family of artists. Ask Lou thoughts about art making and he might say: “Color fills the senses and opens windows of intrinsic understanding. A single layer of color silkscreened on any surface is in itself the explanation of beauty, integrity, clarity and consonance.” And “in terms of intensity and commitment, I find making mono prints to be equal to the deliberation required to make a drawing one pencil stroke at a time, or to write a poem one word at a time.”

 


LLOYD MCNEILL, LOU STOVALL, “Towards a Black University Conference,” 1968 (multiple color silkscreen on paper, 23 x 35 inches). | Printed by Lou Stovall, Workshop Inc.

 

Marya McQuirter
Curator, dc1968 project and 1968 in deep color, Washington, D.C.

LOU STOVALL’S ARTWORK WAS AVAILABLE for free in D.C., in 1968 and beyond. Through his collaborations with Lloyd McNeill, he produced beautiful, brightly-colored posters with avant-garde fonts and shapes that were plastered throughout the city. The posters informed Washingtonians about what was going on: Charles Cassell running for school board; Bicycledelic at the Ellipse; Howard’s Toward a Black University Conference; the New Thing’s Jazz Workshop series at St. Margaret’s Church; Arena Stage’s plays for the 1968-69 season; the Pop Music Festival at P Street Beach; and the Black Arts Festival at George Washington University. Stovall’s artwork is also on my bookshelf. He designed the cover for the c.l.r. james book, “A History of Pan African Revolt,” published by Drum & Spear Press (1969). When I think of Lou Stovall, I am reminded that art and beauty are everywhere.

 

E. Ethelbert Miller
Poet and Literary Activist, Washington, D.C.

STOVALL, SILKSCREENS, AND THE REST OF US. Lou Stovall was a painter, printmaker and a sweet poet of a man. I use the word sweetness the way the great football running back was called “Sweetness.” I call Lou Stovall a poet because he wrote and read poetry. He loved painting with words, sketching his feelings as he looked around and saw nature staring back at him. Stovall’s kindness bloomed like flowers. There was a softness and caring that I will always associate with this man. The way I will always think of him in black attire as if he was country singer like Johnny Cash. It was Cash that sang about men in black:

    I wear the black for those who’ve never read
    Or listened to the words that Jesus said
    About the road to happiness through love and charity.
    Why, you’d think He’s talking straight to you and me

I think I first met Lou Stovall when we served as D.C. Arts commissioners. We also served together on the board of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation. It was Lou who encouraged the literary organization to create a program that would take well known writers into DC schools to share their work with young people.

I will always think of Lou Stovall as a man who instructed his heart how to teach with patience and loving care. I will think of the studio he built behind his home in Cleveland Park and how there was always a young intern shadowing him there. It was this caring and kindness that probably led him to my door one Christmas when I lived on Fuller Street in Adams Morgan. When I opened my door, there was Lou with one of his large paintings that he presented to me as a gift. It would not be his last gift to me. The greatest gift was his friendship and his willingness to share his poetry with me. I believe we once did a reading together at the National Gallery of Art. Read More

 


GENE DAVIS, “Signal,” 1973 (screenprint on paper, sheet: 40 1⁄2 x 30 inches / 102.9 x 76.2 cm). | © Gene Davis, Printed by Workshop Inc., Smithsonian American Art Museum, Bequest of Florence Coulson Davis, 2002.26.6

 

Keith Morrison
Artist, Meadowbrook, Pa.

IN A WHEELCHAIR, HAVING INSISTED that his wife Di and son Will brave the stormy night to bring him, Lou attended my talk at the Katzen Museum at American University in 2017. He greeted me with his characteristically warm smile and said: “Old age is killing me, but I had to come.” That was Lou: always supportive, always kind, and always generous. He was enormously helpful to me when I prepared the 1985 exhibition, “Art in Washington and Its Afro-American Presence: 1940-1970” with Washington Project for the Arts. I could not have done it without the extensive briefings he gave me about art in Washington in the 1960s and 70s. Lou was just as generous to many other artists and friends in Washington. He was an indelible part of the art of the city, and he was a printmaker of global importance whose work will endure eternally. I humbly join the legion who mourn his loss.

 

Mary Lovelace O’Neal
Fellow Howard University Alum
Artist and Professor Emeritus, University of California, Berkeley

I USED TO GIVE LOU STOVALL MY LUNCH or my lunch money to make stretcher bars for me. Mr. Driskell never knew. We as beginning students were to do everything from scratch. This included selecting wood—eyeing for straightness, looking for knots, beveling the wood, and notching the wood—and stretching the fabric—cotton sail canvas, linen, burlap, gunny sack, gauze—over the bars until our hands blistered. We also cooked up stinking rabbit skin glue and homemade gesso that bubbled out of the pots like homemade gray—more water, more flour. The hot plate a mess. Beginning students were instructed how to use a myriad of difficult, disagreeable materials and processes. Well, I think Mr. Driskell didn’t know about Lou’s side hustle or perhaps he just pretended not to know.

In the same manner Mr. Driskell seemed to pretend to ignore the empty Whiskey bottles, that along with torn-from-anger canvases, dried to concrete brushes, empty paint cans and empty bottles of various oils, filled the oversized and over-stuffed garbage cans in the studio. I think rather than raising hell about whiskey bottles and beer cans, he decided that wasn’t an issue he wanted to take on. The department chair, Prof. James Porter on the other hand was furious when he found such in the mornings. He insisted that the empty bottles and cans be taken out by the persons who had consumed their contents and put into the refuse containers away from his department.

In the end, our gang of specially mentored and spoiled artists moved along to the top levels of our paths. Lou Stovall became a master printer and ran one of the most respected and important printmaking shops on the Eastern Seaboard. The prints he made for and with others and his own works are among the printed jewels scattered throughout the world. Lou charted a new track now and now has moved on up the line.

“I used to give Lou Stovall my lunch or my lunch money to make stretcher bars for me. Mr. Driskell never knew.… Well, I think Mr. Driskell didn’t know about Lou’s side hustle or perhaps he just pretended not to know.”
— Mary Lovelace O’Neal

 


Sidwell Friends School, Washington, D.C., 2018: Lou Stovall with David Driskell, his friend and former professor at Howard University, on the occasion of his Rubenstein Guest Artist Lecture during an exhibition of his works at Sidwell Friends, “Lou Stovall: Landscapes and Abstractions.” | Courtesy Lou Stovall Workshop

 

Danielle O’Steen
Art historian, Curator, and Adjunct Professor of Art History at Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia

LOU STOVALL WAS EVERY BIT THE GENEROUS SOUL, caring mentor, and guiding light that made him a backbone of the Washington, D.C., art community. I had the good fortune of working with Lou over the last few years of his life, as we put together his survey exhibition for The Kreeger Museum. Lou was a benevolent collaborator, and always up for sharing the histories behind his prints. He was committed to the craft of screenprinting, continually pushing the medium in unexpected ways. He saw the potential of screenprinting to create community through collaboration. Throughout my research, I was constantly hearing from folks in Washington about how Lou touched their lives and brought them into his studio and artistic life. There is no greater joy than supporting and sharing the work of an artist who made such a contribution with kindness. I will always be grateful for my time with Lou.

 

Leo Robinson
Fellow Howard University Alum
Painter, Professor Emeritus, California State University, Fullerton
Philadelphia, Pa.

IN THE LATE 1950S AND EARLY 60S, the Art Department at Howard University was very small and somewhat isolated from the rest of the campus, which helped to create a strong sense of camaraderie among the art students. We were also lucky to have an outstanding and dedicated faculty. Lou and I were very close friends, and I would call Lou a great friend. I could make a list that would make him sound like an Eagle Scout: helpful, trustworthy, loyal, dependable, there when you needed him. Everyone liked and respected him.

While he was a full time student, he also had a family and a full time job, but he always had energy. I think the reason he never complained was that he would always turn whatever he had to do into an opportunity for doing or learning something new—like his job at Botkin’s Sign Shop, where he totally absorbed everything and this experience later led to the creation of the highly successful Workshop Inc.

One of the things about Lou was that he came to Howard from New England, with a New England accent and a background that made him a little different from the rest of us, mostly, Southerners. He had a very good education and was used to a high level of intellectual discourse. Lou was erudite, well read, and knowledgeable about a broad range of subjects. He was a true intellectual, curious, thoughtful, challenging. He loved to critique work and was glad to discuss any topic or issue in art, historical or contemporary. I think if he had continued in his art history studies, he would have made important contributions to the field.

Lou was a great, original artist. His work was always expressive while being highly personal and full of emotion and restraint at the same time. I love the earlier bird imagery, but his later abstractions are beautiful and reminiscent of the Washington D.C., Color School, but it’s not derivative. He made it his own.

He was always in control of the silkscreen medium, which he pushed to an unbelievably high level and used it to enrich his images with pure elegance. In fact, elegant is a good word to use to describe everything about Lou Stovall.

“One of the things about Lou was that he came to Howard from New England, with a New England accent and a background that made him a little different from the rest of us, mostly, Southerners. He had a very good education and was used to a high level of intellectual discourse.”
— Leo Robinson

 


From left, LLOYD MCNEILL, LOU STOVALL, “Heros – Bohemian Caverns,” 1968 (multiple color silkscreen on paper, 28 x 23 inches); and LLOYD MCNEILL, LOU STOVALL, “Black Arts Festival,” 1968 (silkscreen poster, 28 x 22 inches), promoting a festival organized by the Black Student Union at George Washington University, chaired by then-student Peggy Cooper (Cafritz) featuring Alma Thomas, Lloyd McNeill, Sam Gilliam, Leo Robinson. | Printed by Lou Stovall, Workshop Inc. (2)

 

Elsa Smithgall
Chief Curator, The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.

LOU STOVALL LEFT THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE. Not only through the glories of his artistic expression but also through the strong bonds he forged with others as an inspiring mentor, friend, teacher, poet, collaborator, and leading voice within the DC artistic community. To know Lou was to feel his warmth, kindness, creative genius, and love of beauty in the natural world. All these emotions found expression in his art and life. “Our world is one of sound made beautiful with joyful thoughts of our environment,” Lou once said in describing his impulse to create visual equivalents of the four piano concertos of Sergei Rachmaninov. The third print in the series, “Suite for Sergei” (2007), now graces the music room of The Phillips Collection; its rhythmic colors and forms fill the room with majestic sounds. Lou’s bold experimentation pushed the expressive potential of silkscreen to new heights.

 

Sylvia Snowden
Fellow Howard University Alum
Artist, Washington, D.C.

LOU STOVALL AND I WERE STUDENTS in the art department at Howard University during the early 1960s. We studied under James A. Porter, Lois M. Jones, and James L. Wells, who had a profound impact on all of us. Lou worked as a silkscreen advertisement artist while he attended Howard. He was well liked by all, becoming part of the “L” group consisting of Lou, Lloyd McNeill, and Leo Robinson, who were all respected and admired by other students. I have taught at many universities and colleges and the Howard University Art Department had the widest collection of art representation through slide imagery. Lou was the only student trusted with showing the massive slide collection to classes and students who were studying art history. He would go to the art department on weekends and show art slides to students. While at Howard, he did silkscreen prints for himself and other artists, which resulted in the formation of the Workshop Inc., which not only showed Lou’s ability to silkscreen, but also his knowledge of crafts, including working with wood. He was able to make all sorts of repairs. He could print and repair everything. Lou Stovall will be missed by many.

 


SAM GILLIAM, “Dance,” 1972 (silkscreen print, 40 x 26 inches). | © 2022 Sam Gilliam / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Printed by Lou Stovall, Workshop Inc.

 

Susan Talley
Neighbor and Friend

LOU AND DI LIVE ABOUT TWO BLOCKS from our house in Cleveland Park. Some of my first art purchases, after I moved to Washington, D.C., in the early 1970s, were posters Lou created with Sam Gilliam and Lloyd McNeill. I always loved visiting and watching him as he worked in his studio. Lou was always warm and welcoming to me and friends I dragged along.

Seven years ago, when I decided I wanted to create a museum to celebrate Alma Thomas’s art and life, the first person I reached out to was Lou Stovall. I knew Lou would listen to me and give me good advice. I also knew Lou was a highly respected artist and leader in the D.C. art community. During our meeting Lou was most encouraging and generously provided me with the names of D.C. art historians, artists, museum folks, and others he thought I should meet with. Lastly he suggested I create a Friends of Alma Thomas group and he and Di would be the first members.

 

“Lou was what is known as a “social connector”—the DC art scene’s own Kevin Bacon, because everyone knew Lou or knew someone who knew Lou.” — Jonathan Walz

 

Jonathan Frederick Walz
Director of Curatorial Affairs, Curator of American Art, The Columbus Museum, Columbus, Ga.

BETWEEN LATE 2016 AND MID-2020, I was in the middle of co-organizing an exhibition about the Washington, D.C.-based artist-educator Alma W. Thomas. During my research in paper documents and personal interviews, one of the names that I repeatedly encountered was “Lou Stovall.” The frequency of Lou’s name in the archives, as well as the number of prints from Lou’s printmaking atelier, Workshop Inc., that museums have collected since the late 1960s indicate to me, as a scholar, the significant impact that Lou and Workshop Inc., had—and continue to have—on the arts and culture of the Washington metropolitan area.

As an art historian, what I love about printmaking, Lou’s medium of choice, is its accessibility and reach. Beyond that kind of material reach, through ink and paper, Lou was what is known as a “social connector”—the DC art scene’s own Kevin Bacon, because everyone knew Lou or knew someone who knew Lou. To me, Lou embodied joy—not just a joie de vivre (which he possessed in seemingly bottomless quantities) but a deep joy in making art and helping others achieve their own artistic vision through meaningful collaboration.

While the world is a little less bright without Lou in it, how can we be but grateful for how he joyfully shared his talents, skills, and passion for more than half a century to make the world a better and more beautiful place? CT

 

FIND MORE about Lou Stovall on his website

FIND MORE Culture Type also gathered memories from studio assistants who worked with Lou Stovall at Workshop Inc., through the decades

 

FIND MORE about Lou Stovall’s exhibitions. His work was recently on view at the Phillips Collection, Kreeger Museum (On Inventions and Color and Of the Land), Georgia Museum of Art, The Columbus Museum, and Hemphill Fine Art

 

FIND MORE Eight artists including Lou Stovall, Sam Gilliam, David Driskell, and Sylvia Snowden were in conversation about African American art in 20th century Washington, during a two-day symposium at the National Gallery of Art hosted by The Center in 2017

 


Lou Stovall working on his own screenprint, “Cattleyas” (2004) at Workshop Inc., Cleveland Park. | Courtesy Lou Stovall Workshop

 

BOOKSHELF
Recently published, “Of the Land: The Art and Poetry of Lou Stovall” includes the artist’s art, poetry, and a personal narrative about his life and work titled My Story. “Of the Land” is edited by Will Stovall and includes a foreword by National Gallery of Art curator Harry Cooper. An digital exhibition brochure accompanied “Lou Stovall: Of Land and Origins,” the artist’s exhibition at the Georgia Museum of Art. “Beauty Born of Struggle: The Art of Black Washington” is new volume that documents and expands upon a two-day symposium titled “The African American Art World in Twentieth Century Washington, D.C.” that was organized by the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art on March 16-17, 2017. Edited by Jeffrey C. Stewart, the book features a transcript of an historic artist panel with Lou Stovall (1937-2023), Sam Gilliam (1933-2022), David Driskell (1931-2020), Sylvia Snowden, Keith Morrison, Floyd Coleman, Lilian Thomas Burwell, and Martin Puryear that was moderated by Ruth Fine, along with 15 essays by Richard J. Powell, Gwendolyn H. Everett, Lauren Haynes, Elsa Smithgall, Steven Nelson, Jacqueline Serwer, Michael D. Harris (1948-2022), Adrienne Edwards, Robert G. O’Meally, Rhea L. Combs with Paul Gardullo and others that were presented at the symposium.

 

SUPPORT CULTURE TYPE
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