Jamaica Biennial 2014 – First Call

Ebony G. Patterson - The Observation (Bush Cockerel) — A fictitious History, video installation (detail), National Biennial 2012

Ebony G. Patterson – The Observation (Bush Cockerel) — A fictitious History, video installation (detail), National Biennial 2012

The NGJ is pleased to announce the Jamaica Biennial 2014 exhibition, which is scheduled to open on November 14, 2014 — the NGJ’s fortieth anniversary date — and which will close on March 14, 2015. This is the first notification for the exhibition. There have been several major changes to the exhibition and the submission rules – please read the attached Biennial brochure 2014 very carefully.

About the Biennial

In 1977, NGJ inaugurated the Annual National Exhibition, which in its twenty-five year run established itself as the premier national art exhibition in Jamaica. In 2002, the Annual National Exhibition was converted into the National Biennial to favour a stronger exhibition, giving artists more time for the development of ideas and work. Effective 2014, the Biennial has been renamed as the Jamaica Biennial.

Chung, Andrea - Come back to yourself

Andrea Chung – Come Back to Yourself (2012), collage – National Biennial 2012

For the staging of the 2014 Jamaica Biennial, the NGJ will be keeping many aspects of the established framework for previous Biennials but with some important changes to create a more dynamic Biennial that both acknowledges the growing regional and international networks that Jamaican artists participate in and supports the best of local art production. We are considering other entry options for future biennials but for now the entry process remains essentially the same: Jamaican artists may participate by either special invitation or the jury process. In addition, however, selected international and regional artists will be invited to do special projects during the exhibition. There will also be a call for proposals for National Gallery West, our new extension in Montego Bay, which will be open to Jamaican artists. The Biennial will open on November 14, 2014 to coincide with the Gallery’s 40th anniversary and also to better position it on the international art calendar.

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Last Sundays, January 26, featuring “Explorations II: Religion and Spirituality” and Gabriella Reno with Samuele Vivian

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The National Gallery of Jamaica’s Last Sundays programme for January – the first such monthly event for 2014 – is scheduled for Sunday, January 26, from 11 am to 4 pm.

Visitors will have the opportunity to view Explorations II: Religion and Spirituality exhibition, which features sixty-eight works from the National Art Collection and explores the role of religion and spirituality in Jamaican culture and history. The artists featured include Osmond Watson, Edna Manley, Mallica “Kapo” Reynolds, Carl Abrahams, Everald and Clinton Brown, Renee Cox, Ebony G. Patterson, Gloria Escoffery, Norma Rodney-Harrack and Omari Ra. The exhibition is part of a new series that explores important themes in Jamaican art and the National Art Collection and the first edition was Explorations I: Natural Histories, which was shown in the first half of 2013.

The Last Sundays performance, which will start at 1:30 pm, will be by singer Gabriella Reno, featuring Samuele Vivian on guitar. Gabriella Reno is a singer, songwriter and rebelliously opinionated individual, who sings about the complexity of love. Her sweet smoky songs defy genre with elements of R&B, pop, reggae and rock and her emotional delivery connects easily with any crowd. She is scheduled to perform at the Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival 2014, where she will share the stage with Toni Braxton and Chrisette Michele. She is also working on her first album As the Sea, in which the sea provides a metaphor of life which is unpredictable and constantly moving. Master guitarist Samuele Vivian was born in Vicenza, Italy and attended the University of Music and Performing Arts, Graz, Austria.  He collaborates with artists and Grammy Award winners such as Buena Vista Social Club, Antonio Sanchez, Sean Paul, Shaggy, Damian and Stephen Marley. He presently lectures in modern guitar and jazz improvisation at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts. Samuele’s second album Aurora was released in January 2014 and presents a fusion of Mediterranean guitar with Jazz and Jamaican music influences. Continue reading

Religion and Spirituality: Elsewhere in the National Gallery

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This is the final text panel post regarding the current Explorations II: Religion and Spirituality exhibition.

Our modern Jamaican art galleries will be closed for refurbishing while Religion and Spirituality is on view and several of the works that are normally on view there are included in the present exhibition. However, there are works in our collection that are relevant to the exhibition that were left in their normal location in those permanent galleries that will remain open, mainly because relocating them would have unduly disrupted these displays and, in some instances, because it was not physically possible to relocate the works.

Mallica “Kapo” Reynolds is also well represented in the present exhibition but most, if not all of the other work on view in the Kapo Galleries on the second floor is relevant to the themes of Religion and Spirituality. Kapo’s paintings and sculptures collectively provide a vivid portrait of the ritual practices and beliefs of Zion Revival, as a major African-derived popular religion in Jamaica, as well as its general life world, which is captured in a number of portraits, scenes from daily life and landscapes. Kapo himself features prominently in these works, as a Revival community leader and patriarch.

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Religion and Spirituality: Death and Life Beyond

Carl Abrahams - The Ascension (c1978), AD Scott Collection, NGJ

Carl Abrahams – The Ascension (c1978), AD Scott Collection, NGJ

The current Explorations II: Religion and Spirituality exhibition is organized around six broad, overlapping themes, with a gallery dedicated to each theme. Here is the text panel for the sixth and final gallery, titled “Death and Life Beyond”

Most religious beliefs are crucially concerned with finding meaning in death and thus advance particular conceptions of life after death and this gallery features examples of works that engage in various ways with these subjects, from the perspectives of mainstream Christianity and popular African-derived religion and for other metaphorical purposes.

David Pottinger - Nine Night (1949), Collection: NGJ

David Pottinger – Nine Night (1949), Collection: NGJ

One of Christianity’s central tenets is the self-sacrifice of Christ, by means of his death by crucifixion and his subsequent resurrection and ascension, for the sake of the ultimate redemption of humankind. This perspective is represented here by Carl Abrahams’ Ascension (1978) and Ralph Campbell’s Judgement (1974), both of which interpret mainstream Christian iconography of these subjects, and, from a less conventional perspective in Lawrence Edward’s Rapture (1992). David Pottinger’s haunting Nine Night (1949), in contrast, evocatively captures how the spirits of the deceased are ushered into the beyond in Revival culture, and Revivalist conceptions of the ascent of the spirit are also represented, albeit in a more festive manner, in Mallica “Kapo” Reynolds’ Revivalist Going to Heaven (1968).

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Religion and Spirituality: Prayer and Ritual

Mallica "Kapo" Reynolds, Be Still, 1970, Larry Wirth Collection, NGJ

Mallica “Kapo” Reynolds, Be Still, 1970, Larry Wirth Collection, NGJ

The current Explorations II: Religion and Spirituality exhibition is organized around six broad, overlapping themes, with a gallery dedicated to each theme. Here is the text panel for the fifth gallery, titled “Prayer and Ritual”:

The work in this gallery consists of various representations and evocations of prayer and ritual and, in doing so, also focuses on the performative nature of popular religions and spiritual practices, particularly the role of music and dance.

Revival religion features prominently in this section, for instance Osmond Watson’s celebratory Revival Kingdom (1969) and Day of the Pentecost (1971) or, in a more satirical vein, in Carl Abrahams’ Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah (c1965) and Backyard Preacher (c1975). The same exuberant spirit of Revival is also evident in the examples by Revival leader Mallica “Kapo” Reynolds, particularly his Revival Baptism Ceremony (1972) and Allan “Zion” Johnson’s Giving Praise to the Lord (1972), although Kapo is also represented with a more restrained work, Be Still (1970), which represents another side of his spiritual work, namely managing the battle against good and evil and, specifically, the exorcism of evil spirits.

Carl Abrahams - Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah (c1965), AD Scott Collection, NGJ

Carl Abrahams – Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah (c1965), AD Scott Collection, NGJ

The immensely important role of Rastafari in Jamaican music is symbolically represented by Everald Brown’s spectacular Instrument of Four People (1986), which combines a guitar, harp, rhumba box and drum. Music played an important role in the self-appointed mission of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church Brother Brown had established around 1960 and the musical instruments he produced were actively used but, with their unusual sculptural forms and painted and carved decorations also became a full-fledged part of his artistic practice, culminated in masterworks such as the Instrument of Four People, the first of several such hybrid instruments. The instrument-building tradition is continued by his family today.

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Religion and Spirituality: Spiritual Warriors

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

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

The current Explorations II: Religion and Spirituality exhibition is organized around six broad, overlapping themes, with a gallery dedicated to each theme. Here is the text panel for the fourth gallery, titled “Spiritual Warriors”:

The work in this gallery reflects on the role of religion and spirituality in local resistance and liberation movements, especially during the colonial period.

Religion and spirituality played a critical role in the fight against slavery throughout the Americas. In Jamaica, Nanny of the Maroons, had charismatic spiritual powers which she used to empower her followers in guerrilla warfare against the colonial authorities. Similarly, Tacky, the leader of the 1760 rebellion, was an Obeah Man and it is worth noting that Boukman Dutty, who presided over the Vodou ceremony at Bois Cayman that marked the start of the Haitian Revolution in 1791, was from Jamaica. These rebel leaders are symbolically represented in this exhibition by Renee Cox’s The Red Coat, which provides a contemporary interpretation of the figure of Nanny, in which the artist herself adopts Nanny’s persona and in a poignant act of defiance, wears the red coat of the colonial militia.

Kapo - Bogle - small

Mallica “Kapo” Reynolds – Paul Bogle (1952), Larry Wirth Collection, NGJ

In the late 18th century, the Baptist, Methodist and Moravian Church established missions in Jamaica and became actively involved in the Abolitionist movement. These new religious movements gained significant popular support and interacted with African-derived religious traditions. Out of this came several resistance leaders, such as Sam Sharpe, the leader of the 1831 Christmas Rebellion in western Jamaica, and in the post-slavery area, Paul Bogle, the leader of the 1865 Morant Bay Rebellion. Both were Deacons in the Baptist Church. Bogle is represented in this exhibition by a 1952 carving by Kapo, who opted to represent him as one “who threw a stone at the establishment,” the final maquette of Edna Manley’s controversial Bogle monument (1965) and a 2010 poster by Michael Thompson, who represents Bogle as a modern revolutionary.

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