“Communicate!” by Lou Stovall, Lloyd McNeil in What’s Going Around
“Communicate! Federal City College 1969,” ​​by Lou Stovall, Lloyd McNeil. Courtesy of The Lou Stovall Workshop / HEMPHILL Artworks

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What’s Going Around 

In the  late 1960s and the early 1970, political posters brought the community together—signaling to people from buses, bulletin boards, and telephone poles where, when, and why to meet. Activists sought equal rights for people of color and for the people of D.C. And local artist Lou Stovall captured the culture of those seeking freedom by infusing their voices into his poster art. What’s Going Around, HEMPHILL Fine Arts’ current exhibit, explores Stovall’s work and artistic activism during the Civil Rights Movement in an effort to understand the pivotal time we’re seeing today. Stovall’s posters capture the energy of the era while also exemplifying a mastery in silkscreen printmaking and messaging. Throughout the exhibit, dynamic lines and colors create a motion eager for release. Visuals of silhouettes, local blocks, and community articles, such as bicycles and trees, are paired with intentionally placed letters. The words may provide the information, but they are devoted to design. One piece, a collaboration between Stovall and artist Lloyd McNeil from 1968, depicts an arrow, filled with faces, that points to the  text: “Towards a Black University Conference Nov 13-17 ’68 Howard University.” Though most of the poster uses green and black paint, the words “Black” and “Nov 13-17” are emphasized in red. In full, the exhibition underlines how exuberance in visual communication can affect change and draw in supporters. It also forges conversations about the artists and mediums driving the activism that helped establish D.C.’s independent voice of today. The exhibition runs through July 17 at HEMPHILL Fine Arts, 434 K St. NW. Viewable in person and online at hemphillfinearts.com. Free.