Upcoming AMAM Exhibits Promise Thematic Continuity

Audrey Saunders

This spring, lucky visitors to the Allen Memorial Art Museum will have access to four new exhibits furthering the theme of “Religion, Ritual, and Performance,” including religious books of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, leaves of devotional Russian manuscripts, Yorùbá art and instruments, as well as modern illustrations of several well-known texts.

Since late August the independent exhibits “Ritual, Religion, and Performance in the Renaissance” and “Religion, Ritual, and Performance in Modern and Contemporary Art” have impressed visitors with their immense variety and recognizable evolution of ideas — all while remaining relevant to their common theme.

New visitors to the AMAM, as well as those already familiar with the ways in which the museum’s curators have related the works of Renaissance artists to the seemingly disparate creations of modern and contemporary artists, will be pleased to witness for themselves the thematic cohesion promised by the museum’s four new exhibits, beginning with the exhibition “Private Prayer, Public Performance: Religious Books of the Later Middle Ages and Renaissance.”

The exhibition, situated in the Ripin Print Gallery, features Psalters, missals and choir books used for various religious purposes between 1250 and 1500 and decorated with illustrations and borders in ink, tempera and shimmering gold leaf.

Also located in the Ripin Print Gallery are two more exhibitions, “Illuminating Faith in the Russian Old Believer Tradition,” and a relatively unrelated exhibit called “Representing the Word: Modern Book Illustrations.”

The former is comprised of illuminated manuscript leaves from both the AMAM and Oberlin College’s extensive Special Collections and two manuscripts on loan from Ohio State University. The Russian Old Believers, denied access to printing presses because of their dissenting religious views, copied, illustrated by hand and secretly circulated their own books from the late-18th to early-19th century, which are now readily accessible to the public in the AMAM.

“Representing the Word: Modern Book Illustrations” offers AMAM visitors the opportunity to recollect their fond memories of reading the likes of Emily Brontë and William Shakespeare as they explore 19th- and 20th-century depictions of texts by visual artists such as Clare Leighton and Oskar Kokoschka. Visitors will be reminded of the theme “Religion, Ritual, and Performance” through William Blake’s engravings for the Book of Job, but in a more familiar way.

“Ritual and Performance in the Yorùbá World” examines unities in the rituals of divination and performance of a culture dispersed across the Ca- ribbean, North America and England. The exhibition includes the artwork of Voodoo ceremonies, Orisha cults and contemporary artists, created with a variety of materials like glass beads and leather.

The four new exhibitions deserve to be explored independently, with regard to one another, and in dialogue with the two exhibitions that began in August 2012 and will continue until late June 2013.

The theme of “Religion, Ritual, and Performance” will culminate in a two-day scholarly symposium on “Religion, Ritual and Performance in the Renaissance” April 25 and 26. The event, hosted by the AMAM, will be free and open to the public.