Back to Nature
John Dunkley (1891–1947) is widely considered to be one of Jamaica’s most important artists. This first exhibition of his oeuvre outside of his native country creates an international context for its appreciation. Composed of forty-five works, it includes his paintings from the 1930s and 1940s, which are primarily landscapes defined by their distinctive dark palette and psychologically suggestive underpinnings, alongside rare carved wood and stone figurative sculptures. Dunkley was working at a pivotal time in Jamaica’s history, contributing to the formation of an independent nation. His life and work provide insight into the broader economic and social factors, as well as the popular culture, that defined this era in Jamaica and the Caribbean.
Accra-based artist and craftsman Paa Joe (b. 1947), known for his figurative coffins that draw from the traditional Ghanaian custom of abebuu adekai, gained international recognition in seminal presentations like Magicians of the Earth (Pompidou, 1989). This exhibition presents a unique series of large-scale painted wood sculptures commissioned in 2004 and 2005—architectural models of Gold Coast castles and forts that served as way stations for more than six million Africans sold into slavery and sent to the Americas and the Caribbean between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries. Once forced through these “Gates of No Return,” they started an irreversible, perilous journey during which many died. This production alludes to Paa Joe’s coffins, seen as vessels ferrying the dead in the afterlife, speaking to spirits separated from bodies in trauma. Archival documents and recordings accompany the show.
In the first decades of the twentieth century, curiosity seekers hit the open road. Roadside attractions proliferated along mainstream American highways and backroad byways, touting oddities and curiosities, miniatures and gigantics, relics and totems, and other homegrown marvels. Drawn from the collection of American Folk Art Museum, Roadside Attraction evokes the spirit of this cultural phenomenon—a cabinet of curiosity for the automobile age.Learn more