2013 Rex Nettleford Arts Conference: Panel Discussion on New Roots @ Friday, October 18


The National Gallery of Jamaica is pleased to partner with the Edna Manley College’s 2013 Rex Nettleford Arts Conference by presenting a panel discussion on the critical issues arising from its current New Roots: 10 Emerging Artists exhibition. This panel discussion will take place at the National Gallery on Friday, October 18 from 11 am to 12:30 pm and the panel will consist of Matthew McCarthy, one of the artists in the exhibition, Petrona Morrison, the Director of the Edna Manley College’s School of Visual Arts, and the exhibition curators Veerle Poupeye, O’Neil Lawrence, and Nicole Smythe-Johnson.

New Roots: 10 Emerging Artists, which was recently extended to November 2, 2013, features work by Deborah Anzinger, Varun Baker, Camille Chedda, Gisele Gardner, The Girl and the Magpie, Matthew McCarthy, Olivia McGilchrist, Astro Saulter, Nile Saulter and Ikem Smith who are all under 40 years old and new or relatively new to the Jamaican art world. New Roots was designed to identify and encourage new directions in the Jamaican art world, in keeping with the National Gallery’s mandate to support artistic development and to provide opportunities for young artists. It features are in conventional and new media – painting in various media and on various surfaces, digital photography, video and animation, and jewellery – and a variety of genres and styles, from the documentary to the fantastic. The exhibition reflects marked shifts in artistic and curatorial practice that respond to the current global and local cultural moment, especially with regards to the changing relationship between art work, artist and audience, and it presents new perspectives on art’s potential to foster social transformation in a time of crisis.

matthew - notice board - smaller

Detail of Matthew McCarthy’s interactive Put Dis on Page 2 installation

Admission to the NGJ will be free on October 18 and free guided tours of the New Roots exhibition will be offered before and after the panel discussion. Conference registration is not required to attend this panel discussion. For more on the Rex Nettleford Arts Conference, please click here.

New Roots: An Invitation to Dialogue

girl and magpie installation view

The Girl and the Magpie – installation view

We at the NGJ are committed to fostering critical dialogue and our exhibitions are designed to do just that. The current New Roots: 10 Emerging Artists exhibition is a perfect example and it has already elicited a variety of responses, informal and in writing – we welcome both. This morning we received the following comment from a George Blackwell to one of our posts on the exhibition:

The New Roots Exhibition at the National Gallery of Jamaica is interesting to take note of for several reasons. Firstly, ‘New Roots’, as the title suggests, betrays a desperate bid to get away from any serious discourse that foregrounds the black as the essential constituent in local identity matters. Therefore, the exhibition is insipidly curated to avoid this discussion.

Secondly, new routes are not really new. Videos, installations, animations and graffiti art have had enduring presence in Jamaican art. Nor are the directions and messages of the respective artists new. What is new, however, is the irrational extent to which the curators have gone to scrape the barrel to find people who have no skills or claims to the art making process regardless of the media or medium they choose to work with.

The short film by Saulter suffers from a lack of interesting camera angles and a powerful metaphor has been sacrificed to a gruffly overdone gabble posing as narrative. The other videos are for the most part jejune, the entertainment value and cultural schmaltz become part of the naked technological seduction, while artistic endeavor is absent.

Nile Saulter - Pillowman (2013), video still

Nile Saulter – Pillowman (2013), video still

Nor is the graffiti display new. What is new about it is that though most graffiti works display a competent level of intellectual finesse in their political charge and their artistic ambitions, in McCarthy’s case, one would have to dig deep into the dense layer of clichés to find any smidgen of such. This he compensated for by his PR teamwork and media savvy.

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The Museum and the World: A Review of the 2013 CIMAM Annual Conference

"Time to Breathe" by Maria Nepomuceno, an installation at the Museu de Arte Moderna

“Time to Breathe” by Maria Nepomuceno, an installation at the Museu de Arte Moderna

NGJ Senior Curator Nicole Smythe-Johnson recently attended the CIMAM conference in RIO. Here is her report on the experience.

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to attend the CIMAM (International Committee for Museums and Collections of Modern Art) annual conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The conference theme was “New Dynamics in Museums: Curator, Artwork, Public, Governance” and discussions focused on the continued viability of museums and arts institutions in a climate of rapid change.

The participants were a diverse group, with people from all over the world working in the field of modern and contemporary art in various capacities. There were museum directors, curators (independent and institution-affiliated), and representatives from artist-run and emerging spaces across the globe. Professionals from places like the Tate Modern and MoMA, mingled and debated with those from places like the National Gallery of Zimbabwe and TEOR/éTica (an independent, non-profit art space in Costa Rica).

Nadín Ospina - Crítico extático (Ecstatic Critic, 2004), Stone, on view in "Cantos Cuentos Colombianos", Casa Daros

Nadín Ospina – Crítico extático (Ecstatic Critic, 2004), Stone, on view in “Cantos Cuentos Colombianos”, Casa Daros

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New Roots: Some Thoughts on The Artist as Author

New Roots: 10 Emerging Artists opened at the NGJ on July 28 and continues until September 30. Here is the first of a series of reflections on the exhibition contributed by Senior Curator Nicole Smythe-Johnson.
Deborah Anzinger - detail of installation

Deborah Anzinger – detail of installation

Art is a game between all people of all periods.

-Marcel Duchamp

Generally, society has quite fixed notions of who an artist is and what the process of making art is like. We imagine the solitary artist, blessed with super-human talent, spends his/her time engrossed in existential angst and strange pre-occupations, only to bring forth a manifestation of virtuosic mastery- a small slice of beauty, or truth, or “what it means to be human”. We talk about the “artistic temperament”, “artistic license” and “the starving artist”. Yet, any one who is paying attention to developments in local and international fine art circles must admit that these concepts are being challenged.

We live in a world where Sol LeWitt’s Wall Drawing #1268, currently on display at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo New York, was executed three years after the artist’s death in 2007. The notoriously well-paid Jeff Koons has a veritable factory of over 130 assistants. Painter Angela de la Cruz, who suffered a debilitating stroke, relies entirely on assistants to execute her works but that didn’t stop her from being nominated for the prestigious Turner Prize in 2011. Even younger artists are utilising assistants. Emerging artist Alexander Gorlizki, whose work has been displayed at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London and Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum, has his $10,000 USD paintings done by seven artists in Jaipur, India. According to Gorlizki, this form of artistic practice is liberating, freeing him from the requirement of “technical proficiency”[1]. Continue reading

New Roots: Introduction

Matthew McCarty - I Took the Liberty of Designing One (2013)

Matthew McCarty – I Took the Liberty of Designing One (2013)

Instead of asking what are people’s roots, we ought to think about what are their routes, the different points by which they have come to be now they are, in a sense, the sum of those differences. That, I think, is a different way of speaking than talking about multiple personalities or multiple identities as if they don’t have any relation to one another or that they are purely intentional. These routes hold us in places, but what they don’t do is hold us in the same place. We need to try to make sense of the connections with where we think we were then as compared to where we are now. That is what biography or the unfolding sense of the self or the stories we tell ourselves or the autobiographies we write are meant to do, to convince ourselves that these are not a series of leaps in the dark that we took, but they did have some logic, though it’s not the logic of time or cause or sequence. But there is a logic of connected meaning.

Stuart Hall

The New Roots exhibition features 10 emerging artists: Deborah Anzinger, Varun Baker, Camille Chedda, Gisele Gardner, Matthew McCarthy, Olivia McGilchrist, Astro Saulter, Nile Saulter, Ikem Smith and The Girl and the Magpie. These artists were selected by our curatorial team, which was headed by Nicole Smythe-Johnson, O’Neil Lawrence and myself, from our initial shortlist of over 30 artists under 40 years old who were either born in Jamaica or of Jamaican parentage or who are active here. We specifically looked for artists who had started exhibiting only recently, at least in Jamaica, and who had not previously been represented in National Gallery of Jamaica exhibitions of a similar nature, such as our Young Talent series. Final selections were made based on obvious practical considerations, such as the availability of work and feasibility of project proposals, but most of all we looked for work that suggested viable new directions in local contemporary art practice. And we found a lot that interested us: a strong focus on photographic reportage; provocative autobiographic reflections and social interventions; new interrogations of gender and the body; an at times unsparing realism but also a capacity for imaginative visual poetry; experimentation with video projection, animation and interactivity; and a growing disregard for conventional notions about the “art object” and the traditional, segregated artistic disciplines.

The Girl and the Magpie - Sponge (necklace, collection Fragile Jamaica) (2013) - work in progress

The Girl and the Magpie – Sponge (necklace, collection Fragile Jamaica) (2013) – work in progress

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New Roots: Astro Saulter

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Astro Saulter (b1978, Jamaica) is a digital artist living in Negril, Jamaica. As an infant, Astro was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy – a brain and nervous system disorder which causes severe physical disability. One of eight children, Astro’s parents nurtured all of their children’s creative spirit and Astro was no different. At the age of 12, he was enrolled in a special needs school in the USA. There he learned basic subjects and computer skills, including the use of a hands-free head set to perform computer functions. He was later transferred into the general high school system in Miami, Florida. He returned home to Jamaica in 1998. Since then Astro has used the computer as his ‘life-line’ to the world. Around 2001, he began creating visual art. Enabled by the program EZ-Keys, Astro operates his computer using a head switch on the back of his wheelchair, he uses drawing programs such as Macromedia Freehand and Inkscape to “sketch” his drawings, painstakingly connecting lines and filling colors one step at a time.

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