Religion and Spirituality: Elsewhere in the National Gallery

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This is the final text panel post regarding the current Explorations II: Religion and Spirituality exhibition.

Our modern Jamaican art galleries will be closed for refurbishing while Religion and Spirituality is on view and several of the works that are normally on view there are included in the present exhibition. However, there are works in our collection that are relevant to the exhibition that were left in their normal location in those permanent galleries that will remain open, mainly because relocating them would have unduly disrupted these displays and, in some instances, because it was not physically possible to relocate the works.

Mallica “Kapo” Reynolds is also well represented in the present exhibition but most, if not all of the other work on view in the Kapo Galleries on the second floor is relevant to the themes of Religion and Spirituality. Kapo’s paintings and sculptures collectively provide a vivid portrait of the ritual practices and beliefs of Zion Revival, as a major African-derived popular religion in Jamaica, as well as its general life world, which is captured in a number of portraits, scenes from daily life and landscapes. Kapo himself features prominently in these works, as a Revival community leader and patriarch.

Edna Manley is also well represented in the Religion and Spirituality exhibition but there are several large works in the Edna Manley Galleries that are also relevant, such as the relief carvings Adam and Eve (1930), He Cometh Forth (1962), the first Bogle maquette (1965), and Journey (1974). He Cometh Forth makes reference to Job 14:2, an Old Testament passage that prefigures the sacrifice of Christ, but the work is a broader metaphor of Jamaica as an emerging nation, produced to commemorate Independence, and Journey is Edna Manley’s last carving and the final work in her so-called mourning series, which reflected on the passing of her husband Norman Manley. Since David Miller Senior’s work would otherwise not have been represented in the Early Intuitives gallery, which will remain open during the refurbishing, we decided to leave his Obi (c1940) there, although the work is relevant to Obeah as a spiritual practice.

R. Cartwright (lithographer), Baptist Chapel, St. Ann's Bay (c1840), Aaron and Marjorie Matalon Collection, NGJ

R. Cartwright (lithographer), Baptist Chapel, St. Ann’s Bay (c1840), Aaron and Marjorie Matalon Collection, NGJ

The decision to include only modern and contemporary art in Religion and Spirituality was also motivated by practical considerations, since we did not want to disrupt our historical galleries while other major parts of our permanent collection were closed, but there are several key works there too that could have been included. The Taino carvings are all related to religious practices and beliefs – one is believed to represent their chief god Youcahuna and two other carvings are related the Cohoba ritual. The display also features a dujo, a hammock-shaped figurative ceremonial stool, which was also used in burials. The historical galleries also include paintings and prints that are related to the Abolitionist campaign and speak to the role of evangelical Christianity in that process, such as the Baptist Chapel series (c1840), which documented chapels that had been destroyed by arson during that eventful period.

We invite you to view these works in the permanent galleries in dialogue with those in the exhibition.

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