Jamaica Biennial 2014 – Bulletin # 2: Renee Cox, Richard Mark Rawlins

Renee Cox - From the Sacred Geometry series (2014)

Renee Cox – From the Sacred Geometry series (2014)

Work on the Jamaica Biennial 2014 continues apace and the selection of the juried section of the Biennial was completed on October 20. Judges Diana Nawi and Sara Hermann selected 65 works by 53 artists – entrants are being notified individually of the outcome or can call the NGJ at 922-1561 for more information. We are now receiving submissions by the invited artists, which close on November 7, after which we will announce the final list of participating artists. We are also working on the logistics with the six specially invited artists and now present the first of a three-part introduction to these artists and their projects, starting with Renee Cox and Richard Mark Rawlins.

Renee Cox - The Red Coat (2004, Collection: NGJ)

Renee Cox – The Red Coat (2004, Collection: NGJ)

Renee Cox is a New York-based photographer and mixed media artist who is known for her seminal and at times controversial presentation of Afrofuturistic photography to the art world. She has also worked as a fashion photographer in Paris and New York.

Cox was born in Jamaica and moved to New York where she received a degree in Film Studies at Syracuse University. She has been featured in many museum exhibitions including the Spelman Museum of Fine Art (2013), the Wadsworth Athenaeum Museum of Art (2008), the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke (2006), the Brooklyn Museum (2001), the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) Boston (1996), and the Whitney Museum of American Art (1993), to name a few. Cox’s work was recently featured in the book and exhibition Pictures from Paradise: A Survey of Contemporary Carribean Photography, the exhibition as part of the Contact Photography Festival 2014 in Toronto, Canada.

Finding the inspiration for her work from her own life experiences, Renee Cox has used her own body in her photographs to represent her criticisms of society and as well as to celebrate and empower women. Arguably her best known work is Yo Mama’s Last Supper, in which she recreated Leonardo Da Vinci’s Last Supper by featuring her nude self, sitting in for Jesus Christ and surrounded by all black disciples. When shown at the Brooklyn Museum in 2001, Yo Mama’s Last Supper incurred the wrath of Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and religious leaders in New York City but the work is now regarded as a classic example of contemporary photography and it has been referenced in scholarly publications and lectures around the world.

In 2006 Cox exhibited her series Queen Nanny of the Maroons at the National Gallery of Jamaica’s Biennial, where it was awarded the Aaron Matalon Award. The series drew from Cox’s Jamaican heritage and Cox took on the persona of a female resistance leader from the plantation period, Nanny of the Maroons, and other related female figures. One of the photographs from the Queen Nanny of the Maroons, Red Coat is now represented in the National Gallery of Jamaica’s collection and it has also has travelled to museums as part of the Caribbean: Crossroads of the World exhibition, including the Perez Art Museum Miami (2014), and the Studio Museum in Harlem (2012).

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Gold Musgrave Medal – Petrona Morrison

Petrona Morrison - Reality/Representation (2004), detail of installation

Petrona Morrison – Reality/Representation (2004), detail of installation

Here is the third and final of the citations for this year’s Musgrave Medals in Art, for Petrona Morrison who was awarded the Gold:

“The Institute of Jamaica recognizes Petrona Morrison for distinguished eminence in the field of Art and Art Education.”

“Petrona Morrison was born in the parish of Manchester in 1954. She obtained the Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts (Summa Cum Laude) at McMaster University and a Masters of Fine Arts in Painting from Howard University College of Fine Arts. During her MFA studies, she spent a year in Kenya and she was artist-in-residence at the Studio Museum in Harlem from 1994 to 1995. More recently, she has also held short-term artists’ residencies at the Contemporary Caribbean Arts in Trinidad in 2002 and at the Bag Factory in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2005.”

“Morrison’s travels and residencies in Kenya, Harlem and South Africa have deeply influenced her artistic development. Her earliest works were fairly conventional, figurative paintings and drawings with autobiographical overtones but her art took a different course in the late 1980s when she started producing textural reliefs and assemblages that incorporated discarded materials.”

Petrona Morrison - Altarpiece 1 & 2 (1991, Collection: NGJ)

Petrona Morrison – Altarpiece 1 & 2 (1991, Collection: NGJ)

“These reflected her interest in traditional African art forms, such as Dogon architecture and the carved doors she had seen in Mombasa; but she invoked these sources poetically rather than literally, as symbolic acts of reconstruction and reconnection.”

“These assemblages became larger over time and culminated in a series of totemic structures made from scrap metal and wood, several of which were over ten feet tall. These assemblages signified, in her own words, “transformation, renewal and healing,” on a personal and broader social level, which has remained as the central theme in her work.”

Petrona Morrison - Sanctuary/Space (For Me), 1995

Petrona Morrison – Sanctuary/Space (For Me), 1995

“Morrison’s residency at the Studio Museum resulted in more three-dimensional constructions that incorporated urban debris such as wood beams and metal fragments from nearby derelict buildings.”

“These recuperation materials were turned into altar-like structures that evoke the frailty of the body and the restorative power of the spirit in the face of material transience. These ritualistic works also mark a turn towards a spirituality related to African-derived New World religions rather than their African sources.”

“By the late 1990s, Morrison’s interest in articulating ritual spaces resulted in room-sized installations that were at first constructed from the recuperation materials she had used in her earlier assemblages but gradually shifted to other, less materially dense media such as medical X-rays, maps and aerial photographs, and other ready-made and purposely produced images, which were placed in front of light boxes and often combined with a few evocative found or constructed objects.”

“These works more directly referred to events in her own life, including her medical history, and also made reference to the social tensions and violence in Jamaican society, which gradually became a more important theme. While materially and visually very different from what she had produced before, these works, nonetheless, reflected thematic continuity as they again spoke about the frailty and resilience of body and spirit and the interconnectedness of the social and the individual.”

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Silver Musgrave Medal – Jasmine Thomas-Girvan

Jasmine Thomas-Girvan - Dreaming Backwards, mixed media, size irregular  - detail

Jasmine Thomas-Girvan – Dreaming Backwards, mixed media, size irregular – detail

Here is the second citation from this year’s Musgrave Awards, this time regarding Jasmine Thomas-Girvan‘s Silver Musgrave Medal:

“The Institute of Jamaica recognizes Jasmine Thomas-Girvan for outstanding merit in the field of Art.”

“The jeweller and metal-smith Jasmine Thomas-Girvan was born in Jamaica and presently lives in Trinidad and Tobago. She attended the Parsons School of Design in New York, where she received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Jewellery and Textile Design. Whilst at Parsons, Thomas-Girvan was awarded the Tiffany Honour Award for Excellence. In 1996 she was the recipient of a Commonwealth Foundation Arts award and in 2012 she was the recipient of the National Gallery of Jamaica’s Aaron Matalon Award, as the artist who made the most outstanding contribution to that year’s National Biennial. Her mixed media installation, Dreaming Backwards, which was exhibited in the 2012 Biennial, was subsequently acquired for the National Art Collection.”

Jasmine Thomas-Girvan - Dreaming Backwards, mixed media - detail

Jasmine Thomas-Girvan – Dreaming Backwards, mixed media – detail

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Bronze Musgrave Medal – Phillip Thomas

Phillip Thomas - The N-Train (2008)

Phillip Thomas – The N-Train (2008)

On October 22, three Jamaican artists were awarded Musgrave Medals by the Institute of Jamaica: Petrona Morrison (Gold), Jasmine Thomas-Girvan (Silver) and Phillip Thomas (Bronze). The NGJ congratulates them and, as has become customary, is publishing the citations on its blog, starting with Phillip Thomas:

“The Institute of Jamaica recognizes Mr Phillip Thomas for merit in the field of Art.”

“Phillip Thomas currently teaches painting at the Edna Manley College’s School of Art, his alma mater, where he attained a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in Painting and in the process earned the coveted Albert Huie Prize for painting. He also earned a Masters of Fine Arts in Painting from the New York Academy of Art, where he was awarded a one year post graduate fellowship. He has recently completed a residency at The Prince’s Drawing School Dimplex Studio at Dumfries House in Scotland.”

Phillip Thomas - An Upper Saint Andrew Concubine, triptych, mixed media on canvas, National Biennial 2012

Phillip Thomas – An Upper Saint Andrew Concubine, triptych, mixed media on canvas, National Biennial 2012

“Thomas has exhibited widely in Jamaica and internationally. He won the Public Award in the Mutual Gallery’s Under-40 Artist of the Year competition in 2008 and he is a regular exhibitor at the National Gallery of Jamaica, where he was awarded the prestigious Aaron Matalon Award for his submission to the 2008 Biennial. He is represented internationally by the Richard J. Demato Gallery in Sag Harbor, New York.”

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Last Sundays, October 26, 2014, featuring In Retrospect Exhibition and Maurice Gordon and Pimento

ngj_Sunday_Opening_Oct_26_2014

The National Gallery’s Last Sundays programme for October 2014 is scheduled for Sunday, October 26, from 11 am to 4 pm, and will feature the In Retrospect: 40 Years of the National Gallery of Jamaica exhibition and a musical performance by the Pimento trio, featuring Maurice Gordon.

The In Retrospect: 40 Years of the National Gallery of Jamaica exhibition opened on August 31 and represents the first major event in the National Gallery’s 40th anniversary celebrations. In Retrospect tells the story of the National Gallery through its exhibitions and publications, through major donations, and through the debates that have surrounded the Gallery from its earliest years, with a special focus on the Gallery’s role in articulating how Jamaican art is understood. The exhibition consists mainly of key works from the Gallery’s collection and invites viewers to respond to these works in the context of the National Gallery’s own history. In Retrospect closes on November 15 and is thus in its final weeks.

The Pimento trio, which is scheduled to start at 1:30 pm, plays contemporary jazz, flavored with hints of reggae, R&B, funk, rock and fusion. The trio is headed by the noted guitarist and composer Maurice Gordon, who is acclaimed for his fluid technique, dexterity and highly personal style and cites as his influences Charlie Christian, Wes Montgomery, Miles Davis, George Benson and Bob Marley. Maurice Gordon has performed at festivals in the Caribbean including Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival, St. Lucia and Martinique Jazz Festivals, Ramajay Festival (Trinidad), Grenada Spice Jazz Festival.

As is now customary for Last Sundays, admission to the NGJ will be free on Sunday, October 26, and guided tours and children’s activities will also be offered free of cost. Our gift and coffee shop will be open for business and contributions to the donations box are welcomed. Revenues from our shops and donations help to fund programmes such as the In Retrospect exhibition and our Last Sundays programming.

JAMAICA BIENNIAL 2014 – bulletin # 1

Shoshanna Weinberger - Collection of Strangefruit - on view in the 2012 Biennial

Shoshanna Weinberger – Collection of Strangefruit – on view in the 2012 Biennial

Work on the re-branded and re-conceptualized Jamaica Biennial, formerly the National Biennial, is progressing well and the exhibition is scheduled to open with a week of events from December 6 to 14, 2014.

As before, the exhibition comprises a juried section, which is open to all artists living in Jamaica and Jamaican artists and artists of immediate descent living elsewhere, and an invited section, which includes artists with a well-established record of exhibitions and critical response. In a departure from its previous, national focus and a first major step towards internationalizing the Biennial, a select number of international artists have also been invited to contribute special projects, namely Simon Fujiwara (UK/Japan), Renee Cox (Jamaica/USA), Richard Mark Rawlins (Trinidad), Sheena Rose (Barbados), Blue Curry (Bahamas/UK) and James Cooper (Bermuda). For the first time, also the Biennial is operating from more than one venue. In addition to the National Gallery of Jamaica in downtown Kingston, this will include National Gallery West in Montego Bay and Devon House in Kingston. The 2014 Biennial also involves a collaboration with the Edna Manley College on Simon Fujiwara’s project, which will be created at the College and transferred from there, in the context of a performance, to the National Gallery in downtown Kingston.

Devon House

Devon House

More information on the special projects, the opening week events, and what will be shown at each of the exhibition venue will be shared in future bulletins but in this first bulletin we are focusing on the juried section, for which entries are closing later today, October 17. Thus far, we have logged some 150 entries and we are expecting more by the close of day. The judging will be conducted this weekend and, as part of the reorganization of the Biennial, the entries to the juried section will from now on be adjudged by two international judges, who will bring a fresh perspective to the work submitted and who will also help to raise the international profile of the exhibition. For the 2014 edition, these judges are Diana Nawi and Sara Hermann, both well-respected curators and art historians with extensive regional and international experience.

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