Jamaica Biennial: “Regal Zeen” by Matthew McCarthy

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During the course of the Jamaica Biennial 2014, which is on view until March 15, at the National Gallery of Jamaica, Devon House, National Gallery West and, for Blue Curry’s project, on the streets of Downtown Kingston, we will be posting short features on projects, works and artists in the exhibition. Here is the first, on Matthew McCarthy and his Regal Zeen project, which was launched as a performance at the Biennial’s main opening reception on December 14.

Matthew McCarthy was born in Kingston in 1992. He is a Jamaica-based illustrator and mural painter who has spent the last five years indulging his obsession with Jamaican street signs, old school dancehall illustrations and global street art movements through an art practice that engages and challenges the traditional art institution. Since his graduation from the Edna Manley College of Visual Art in 2013, McCarthy has exhibited at the NGJ in the New Roots (2013) exhibition of ten emerging artists, and been a key figure in the development of street art in Jamaica, via first the Paint Jamaica project and later the Paint Jamaica initiative. His work looks at issues of identity and politics, articulating hope for the expansion of political and artistic horizons.

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Matthew McCarthy’s Regal Zeen is the start of a new project, a print and online “zeen” that will make regular interventions into Jamaica’s social and artistic environment. McCarthy says: “Regal manifested out of the need to establish a sustainable and artistic lifestyle archive among young like-minded creative individuals, with the greater intention of inspiring a productive change in our environment. These images represent a shift in the very being of our nation’s people towards an expedition of consciousness.” For the December 14 performance, McCarthy and a group of fellow artists “invaded” the  National Gallery wearing African masks. They were accompanied by a mobile sound man, who played conscious music the team had selected, and handed out prints of the Regal Zeen preview to patrons at the function. An e-version of the Regal Zeen preview has been posted to the Draconian Switch magazine website and can be reached by scanning the QR Code at the top of this post.

(Photos courtesy of Nicole Smythe-Johnson)

Matthew McCarty - regal logo-01 copy

The 2014 Aaron Matalon and Dawn Scott Memorial Awards Are Announced

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The National Gallery of Jamaica extends heartiest congratulations to Ebony G. Patterson, the winner of the 2014 Aaron Matalon Award, and Camille Chedda and Kimani Beckford, the co-winners of the inaugural Dawn Scott Memorial Award. Both awards are attached to the Jamaica Biennial 2014 exhibition, which opened with a week of events from December 7 to 14 and continues until March 15, 2015 at the National Gallery of Jamaica and Devon House in Kingston and at National Gallery West in Montego Bay. The awards were announced at the Biennial’s main opening reception at the National Gallery on Sunday, December 14.

The Aaron Matalon Award is granted to the artist who, in the opinion of the combined Exhibitions and Acquisitions committees of the National Gallery made the most outstanding contribution to the Biennial. The award is named after the National Gallery’s late Chairman and benefactor, the Hon. Aaron Matalon, OJ. Awardees receive a unique medal, hand-crafted by the noted jeweller Carol Campbell, and a monetary award. Previous awardees include Phillip Thomas, Norma Rodney Harrack, Renee Cox, Omari Ra and Jasmine Thomas-Girvan.

The 2014 Aaron Matalon Awardee Ebony G. Patterson is a graduate of the Edna Manley College (BFA) and the Sam Fox College of Design and Visual Art at Washington University in St Louis (MFA). She is presently an Associate Professor in the Fine Arts department of the University of Kentucky. Patterson is one of the most outstanding and internationally acclaimed artists to emerge in Jamaica in the last decade and she has received several awards, including the 2011 Rex Nettleford Fellowship in Cultural Studies and the 2012 Bronze Musgrave Medal. Ebony G. Patterson’s is a uniquely Caribbean aesthetic that melds elements of “high” and “low” art and draws from carnival costuming, Haitian sequined flags, and above all the “bling” of Jamaican Dancehall fashion. Her recent work explores the politics of visibility and invisibility, with regards to the cultural and social implications of violence and death in Jamaican society. Her Biennial projects are exhibited at Devon House and consist of two floor-based tapestry installations from the Dead Treez series, titled Lillies, Carnations and Rozebuds and Trunk Stump and Dominoes, that are embellished with needlework, crochet, glitter, and various objects, including clothing, shoes and children’s toys.

The new Dawn Scott Memorial Award was initiated by the internationally renowned art critic Edward M. Gomez in honour of his late friend, the Jamaican artist Allison Dawn Scott. Dawn Scott is best known for her ground-breaking and highly influential mixed media installation A Cultural Object (1985, Collection: National Gallery) but she also produced figurative batik paintings that depict Jamaican life and people with a unique blend of poetry and realism. She also worked as an interior designer who produced innovative, culturally grounded shop designs and architectural detailing. The awardee is personally selected by Mr Gomez and is a granted to an emerging artist in the Biennial who represents the artistically innovative, socially committed spirit of Dawn Scott. The Dawn Scott Memorial Award also involves a monetary grant. Given the very competitive nature of 2014 Biennial, it comes as no surprise that the Dawn Scott Memorial Award was tied between two artists, Kimani Beckford and Camille Chedda, and Edward Gomez consequently decided to split the award between the two. Continue reading

Jamaica Biennial 2014 at Devon House

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One of the most exciting new developments in the Jamaica Biennial 2014 is the collaboration with Devon House, which is hosting Biennial projects by six artists, five from Jamaica and one from Bermuda: Greg Bailey, James Cooper (Bermuda), Laura Facey, Ebony G. Patterson, Oneika Russell, and Cosmo Whyte.

Having some of the Biennial exhibits outside of the National Gallery of Jamaica itself helps to give the Biennial greater visibility and encourages greater engagement from a variety of audiences – in addition to Devon House, part of the biennial (the Renee Cox exhibition) is also shown at National Gallery West at the Montego Bay Cultural Centre and one project, by Blue Curry, can be seen on the streets of Downtown Kingston. The collaboration with Devon House is the first of what we hope will be an ongoing programme of shared projects and comes at particularly opportune time. The National Gallery first opened its doors at Devon House on November 14, 1974, forty years ago, and operated there until mid-1982, when the institution was relocated to its present building on the Kingston Waterfront. Showing part of the Jamaica Biennial 2014 at Devon House thus amounts to a home-coming on the occasion of our 40th anniversary.

The six artists selected for the Devon House exhibition of the Jamaica Biennial 2014 were selected f because the thematic content and formal qualities of their work have relevance to the context of the House and we opted to make interventions into the space of the House that would make visitors think in new ways about its history and significance. The young painter Greg Bailey is represented with a large formal portrait painting of a black man in a tailored suit seated in an ornate chair, provocatively titled Boasy Slave. It takes the place of the portrait of the 18th century Governor Peter Beckford, in the dining room. This substitution comments ironically on the social and racial dynamics of colonial and postcolonial Jamaica and also makes reference to the history of Devon House itself, as the first plantation style Great House to be built and owned by a black Jamaican – Jamaica’s first black millionaire, George Stiebel – to the distress of the 19th century white elite. Lady Musgrave Road, the story goes, was constructed because Governor Musgrave’s wife did not wish to see Mr Stiebel and family on their verandas when she drove out to go to town.

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Gifts from the ‘Art': New Christmas Cards and Posters in the NGJ Giftshop

Christmas Cards 2014Make the National Gallery of Jamaica Gift Shop your destination this season for all your holiday needs. As is now customary, we have selected a number of popular Jamaican art works from our collection to offer as Christmas Cards. The new cards feature work by Samere Tansley, Osmond Watson, Mallica “Kapo” Reynolds, J.B. Kidd and Karl Parboosingh, and are available with pre-printed holiday greetings and blank.

“We are also pleased to launch our latest selection of art prints inspired by the National Gallery’s fortieth anniversary,” said Michka McCreath, Gift Shop Manager. In 1990, the National Gallery received major works from one of the most important private collection of the 1960s and 1970s, from well-known art patron A.D Scott. From this collection, we selected Barrington Watson’s “Athlete’s Nightmare II (1966),” Carl Abrahams’ “Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah (c.1965),” and Karl Parboosingh’s “Young Mothers (c.1965),” as the perfect prints to send warm wishes to everyone on your shopping list.

In addition, the new collection also features Renee Cox’s “Red Coat (2006)” and Osmond Watson’s “City Life (1968),” from the NGJ collection. Another favourite, Colin Garland’s “Kore (1996)” from the Aaron and Marjorie Matalon Collection, another major donation to the NGJ, is also available.

The NGJ Gift Shop offers a wide range of other fine gift items suitable for all budgets. As part of the opening week of activities for the Jamaica Biennial 2014, the NGJ Gift Shop will be open every day from December 7 to 14 with extended hours until 6pm.

The Gift Shop plays an important role in supporting the education and exhibition programmes of the National Gallery and your patronage is very much appreciated.

NEW DAWN SCOTT MEMORIAL AWARD TO BE GIVEN TO AN ARTIST PARTICIPATING IN THE JAMAICA BIENNIAL 2014

Dawn Scott and Edward M. Gómez in 2003

Dawn Scott and Edward M. Gómez in 2003

The National Gallery of Jamaica is pleased to announce the creation of the Dawn Scott Memorial Award, which will be presented to one artist participating in its Jamaica Biennial 2014 exhibition, which will be on public view from December 7, 2014 to March 15, 2015.

The Dawn Scott Memorial Award, which involves a monetary prize of US$500, is a private initiative sponsored by the New York-based, internationally known art critic and art historian Edward M. Gómez in memory and honour of his close friend and colleague, the late Jamaican artist Alison Dawn Scott (1951-2010). Gómez himself will examine the artworks on view in the Jamaica Biennial 2014 and from them choose one work and its creator to honour with the new award. The award will be announced during the Biennial’s main opening reception on Sunday, December 14 and Edward M. Gómez will personally present the award.

Over the years, Gómez, who served in the cultural section of the Embassy of the United States in Kingston in the 1980s, has developed and maintained close personal and professional ties to Jamaica and its arts community. He has written and published numerous articles and essays about Jamaican artists and their works, including texts about the legendary Intuitives, which helped introduce their achievements to broad, international audiences. In 2006, he delivered opening remarks at the National Gallery of Jamaica’s Intuitives III exhibition and wrote an essay for its accompanying catalogue.

Detail of Dawn Scott - A Cultural Object (1985), Collection: NGJ - this work is currently in restoration and will reopen in early 2015

Detail of Dawn Scott – A Cultural Object (1985), Collection: NGJ

Gómez says, “The Dawn Scott Memorial Award will recognize the creativity and originality of the work of one artist taking part in the Jamaica Biennial 2014. In keeping with the artistic and philosophical principles that distinguished Dawn Scott’s thinking, teaching, art-making and activism, in selecting a winner of the award, I will be looking for proficiency and innovation in the artist’s handling of his or her materials, fresh ideas about the expressive power of art, and a sense of courage in the way the artist addresses his or her subject matter.”

Currently the senior editor of Raw Vision, the London-based, international magazine about outsider art and the work of self-taught artists, Gómez has written for the New York Times, the Japan Times (Tokyo), Reforma (Mexico City), Fahrenheit (Mexico) and many publications in the U.S., including, among others, Art & Antiques, Art in America, ARTnews, Art + Auction, Metropolis, Hyperallergic, Salon,com, Folk Art and the San Francisco Chronicle/S.F. Gate. He is the author or co-author of numerous books and exhibition catalogues, including Dictionnaire de la civilisation japonaise (Hazan Éditions, 1998), Yes: Yoko Ono (Abrams, 2000), The Art of Adolf Wölfli: St. Adolf-Giant-Creation (American Folk Art Museum/Princeton University Press, 2003), Hans Krüsi (Iconofolio/Outsiders, 2006) and La Wilson: Five Decades (John Davis Gallery, 2013).

In her own work, Scott was known for her fine craftsmanship and draughtsmanship. Using the wax-resist batik process on fabric, she produced emblematic portraits and scenes of Jamaican rural and urban life. In 1985, Scott created one of Jamaican contemporary art’s most impactful, mixed-media installation works, A Cultural Object, which the NGJ later acquired. A kind of visual art response to some of the same themes that had been percolating in Jamaican popular music and poetry, this bold work, which influenced a later generation of local artists, literally recreates a patch of an inner-city neighbourhood. It addresses some of contemporary Jamaican and Caribbean society’s most enduring social and economic challenges.

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Jamaica Biennial 2014 to Open with Week of Events

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The National Gallery of Jamaica’s Jamaica Biennial 2014 will open with a week of events from December 7 to 14, 2014, and continue for three months, until March 15, 2015.

The Jamaica Biennial 2014, which has been rebranded and expanded as part of the National Gallery’s 40th anniversary programme, builds on the National Biennial exhibitions that were held at the Gallery since 2002 and its predecessor, the Annual National exhibitions. One major change is that the Biennial now includes an international component, with six special projects by international artists, namely: Renee Cox (Jamaica/USA), James Cooper (Bermuda), Blue Curry (Bahamas/UK), Gilles Elie-dit-Cosaque (Martinique), Richard Mark Rawlins (Trinidad), and Sheena Rose (Barbados). Another development is that the juried section was selected by two international judges, Diana Nawi, Associate Curator at the Perez Art Museum in Miami, and Sara Hermann, a curator and art historian from the Dominican Republic. In all, the Jamaica Biennial 2014 consists of more than 120 works by 97 artists, including well-established artists as well as many young and emerging ones. A wide range of artistic media and approaches is represented, from representational and abstract painting to video and performance art, with a particularly strong representation of digital photography and video art.

In another first, the Biennial will also be shown at more than one location: in addition to the National Gallery, parts of the exhibition will be shown at Devon House and at National Gallery West. For Devon House, we selected six interventions by artists whose work resonates with the history and context of Devon House – Greg Bailey, Laura Facey, James Cooper, Ebony G. Patterson, Oneika Russell, and Cosmo Whyte – and their work will be integrated into the interior of the great house and, in the case of Facey, on the lawn. Devon House was the National Gallery’s original home when it opened in 1974 and the partnership on the 2014 Biennial, at the time of the Gallery’s 40th anniversary, is therefore particularly appropriate. At National Gallery West, the National Gallery’s new branch at the Montego Bay Cultural Centre on Sam Sharpe Square, we will feature selection from a new body of photographic and video by Renee Cox titled Sacred Geometry. One other project, by Blue Curry, will be shown in various locations on the streets of Downtown Kingston. All other exhibits will be at the National Gallery of Jamaica.

Key events for the opening week of the Jamaica Biennial 2014 are as follows:

  • Sunday, December 7: Soft opening of the exhibitions at the National Gallery of Jamaica, Devon House and National Gallery West; at the National Gallery of Jamaica, there will also be a screening of the film Zetwal (Twinkle) by the Martiniquan film director and artist Gilles Elie-dit-Cosaque, which was start at 1:30 pm
  • Tuesday, December 9: Opening reception at Devon House (by invitation).
  • Friday, December 12: Opening reception at National Gallery West, Montego Bay, from 6:30 to 8:30 om.
  • Sunday, December 14: Main opening reception at the National Gallery of Jamaica, with formalities starting at 1:30 pm

During the opening week, from December 7 to 14, all exhibitions (National Gallery of Jamaica, Devon House and National Gallery West) will be open every day with extended opening hours until 6 pm. Further details on opening hours and opening week events will be posted on this blog. Other programmes and events will be staged during the run of the Biennial and will be announced over the next weeks.