Ja’Tovia Gary’s I KNOW IT WAS THE BLOOD at the Dallas Museum of Art positions daily life, ritual, and cultural traditions on the center stage.
Ja’Tovia Gary, I KNOW IT WAS THE BLOOD
April 23–November 5, 2023
Dallas Museum of Art
Entering Ja’Tovia Gary’s exhibition is akin to walking onto a film set. There are no doors to enter the space. You turn a corner and a living room is on display. There is a dark cloth recliner facing a tower of televisions, a rug, and an end table with a lamp and a family portrait. At first glance, it looks like the common comforts of a home. Then I see the stage lights at the end of the rug, the family footage on the screens, and the foot of the recliner kicked up, the body absent but implied.
The title of the exhibition, I KNOW IT WAS THE BLOOD, borrows its name from an old gospel hymn. The word “blood” can also be a signifier for family. This makes the inclusion of the family archive especially significant in projecting a relationship with religion.
Gary’s exhibition invites viewers to consider what we value and care for by giving it our attention. The materials used in the sculptures support this recognition of moving what’s common to the center. In the middle of the gallery rests a ten-foot armillary sphere constructed of cotton and steel. Archival footage from Gary’s family is projected on this sculpture, titled In my mother’s house there are many, many… (2023). The sphere, which appears to be made from hundreds of thousands of cotton balls, frames a connection between what it means to accumulate memories and experiences in our daily lives and what it takes to retain the remainder.
Two screens suspended on each end of the gallery cycle through family videos and choirs singing traditional Black hymns that consider the inherent performance of rituals and traditions.
Leaving the gallery, I carry the gospel song in my head a while, wondering what goes on growing and singing after we leave, after we trade our old stage for a new one.