The National Gallery of Jamaica is pleased to report that a exhibition of Jamaican art, Jamaican Art from the 1960s and 1970s, is presently on view at the National Gallery of the Cayman Islands in Grand Cayman. The exhibition, which opened on Friday, March 21 to an enthusiastic capacity audience and continues until May 15, is the second Jamaican exhibition in the Cayman Islands that was brokered between the two country’s national galleries – the first one, an exhibition of contemporary Jamaican art, was held in 2004.
The present exhibition examines Jamaican art from around Jamaica’s Independence in 1962 to the politically eventful 1970s – one of the most culturally dynamic periods in Jamaican history – and consists of thirty works from the National Gallery of Jamaica Collection and two works from Cayman-based collections of Jamaican art. It includes later works by artists who were already established at that time, such as Edna Manley, Alvin Marriott, Albert Huie, David Pottinger and Carl Abrahams, and younger artists who emerged in the 1960s and 1970s, such as Barrington Watson, Eugene Hyde, Karl Parboosingh, Osmond Watson, Judy Ann MacMillan, Mallica “Kapo” Reynolds, Everald Brown, Gaston Tabois, Hope Brooks, George Rodney and Winston Patrick. The works were selected by NGJ Executive Director Veerle Poupeye and Acting Senior Curator O’Neil Lawrence.
“The National Gallery of the Cayman Islands is delighted host Jamaica Art: 1960s & 1970s from the collection of the National Gallery of Jamaica,” says National Gallery of the Cayman Islands Director Natalie Urquhart. “This exhibition marks an important international collaboration between NGCI and NGJ, and it is an opportunity to reflect and celebrate the long-standing social, cultural and economic relationships between our two countries.” The exhibition, which is one of several planned exchanges between the two national galleries, also reflects the NGJ’s present thrust towards greater regional engagement and visibility.
Whenever our central and mezzanine galleries are not in use for our formal exhibitions, we mount selections of our permanent collection. We have just updated the display with selections from our International Collection, with a special focus on a group of works from the London Group. Here is the text panel for the London Group section of this temporary exhibit, which includes works which have not been on view for more than twenty years.
The London Group
These early London Group works were brought to Jamaica for exhibition by Edna Manley in 1937. Established in 1913 to contest the dominance of the Royal Academy and its conservative view on art, the London Group is one of the world’s oldest continuing artists’ collectives and continues to promote the work of contemporary artists working outside of institutional settings.
The London Group was an influential resource for Manley and a strong connection can be seen between the painting styles of its early members and the “Institute Group”, the collection of Jamaican artists that Manley herself was instrumental in cultivating. Manley joined the London Group in 1930, the same year as British sculptor Henry Moore. Both the Group’s representational approach and interest in Modernism made it a good fit for the Jamaican nationalist school as it looked for ways to picture a forward looking and confident nation.
Frank Bowling, whose large abstract work Maverick is also shown in this gallery, is a current member of the Group, having joined in 1963. Ronald Moody’s 1938 sculptural head Tacet is from the same period as many of the London Group works shown here. Though not a member of the Group, the Jamaican born Moody lived and worked in London since the 1920’s and it is there he became a sculptor of note.
Having spent three months exhibiting a wide range of work produced in the last two years in the National Biennial, we at the National Gallery now turn our attention to history and memory. The current temporary exhibition honours those who are recently departed and brings back some of our Permanent Collection favourites.
In the last few months, the Jamaican artistic community has reeled from the deaths of three of our most long-standing, productive and prolific members; Gaston Tabois (d. Nov 20, 2012), Petrine Archer-Straw (d. Dec 5, 2012) and Fitz Harrack (d. Jan 10, 2013). To honour them, three mini tributes have been installed, showcasing their work. For the next few weeks, patrons will be able to see several of Tabois’ most beloved works (including Taino Cave Rituals - on loan from Michael Gardner), a display of a number of Harrack’s wood sculptures and his larger-than-life metal work North, South, East, West in Conversation. Both displays are accompanied by a text panel with a brief biography. In the case of Archer-Straw who was an artist, but also a curator and art historian, patrons will be treated to a small sampling of her art work, a display of a selection of her publications and an additional text panel that explains her work and its relationship to global and local art world trends.
The rest of the exhibition features works from our National Collection drawing on four themes: Pattern and Decoration, Postcolonialism and Religion, Depictions of Motherhood and the Intuitives. Longtime favourites of the Jamaican public such as Barrington Watson’s Mother and Child and Allan ‘Zion’ Johnson’s Peacock are back on display. However, there are also a number of rarely seen works such as Sherida Levy’s unusual Jamaican Madonna and J. McCloud’s Mother and Child.
Needless to say, the current exhibition offers something for everyone and complements our permanent exhibitions, which provide an overview of Jamaican art from the Taino the the late 20th century. School groups will benefit from the thematic focus of the current exhibition and families are encouraged to take advantage of our Last Sundays and other special events. Our more familiar visitors can engage with memories of friends passed and artwork long missed. We hope to see you soon!
Gaston Tabois – John Canoe in Guanaboa Vale (1962), Collection: NGJ
I put out my effort. Hopefully I’ll die very old having accomplished a lot of good for mankind.
Gaston Tabois, 1987
The National Gallery of Jamaica deeply regrets to announce that the Jamaican Intuitive artist Gaston Lascelles Tabois passed away earlier this week, on November 20, 2012.
Gaston Lascelles Tabois, circa 2010
Gaston Tabois was born in Trout Hall, Clarendon in 1924 but grew up in the small community of Rock River. He spent quite a bit of time on his parents’ small farm, but it was the solid work ethic that was instilled in him by instruction and example particularly that of his mother who insisted on the importance of him taking his educational opportunities seriously.
Gaston Tabois – Road Menders (1956), Collection: NGJ
His artistic talent was apparent from an early age as his elementary school teachers regularly tasked him with making charts for the classes. His dedication to self improvement saw him teaching himself Latin, Spanish, History and Mathematics but it was art that remained a constant in his life, even with his entry into the civil service. Tabois eventually became the Acting Chief Draftsman in the Ministry of Construction but it was his artistic production that brought him national attention. As a self taught painter,he held his first solo show at the Hills Gallery in Kingston in 1955, where he was immediately hailed as one of the era’s most significant “primitive” painters. He continued exhibiting with the Hills Gallery for several years and his painting Road Menders (1956), which is now a prized part of the NGJ Collection, was originally shown there. Continue reading
Join us on Sunday for our monthly Last Sunday opening hours, 11 to 4. The free tours and children’s activities will focus on our permanent collections, including the pre-twentieth century collections, the Edna Manley and Kapo Galleries and the AD Scott Gallery. Free admission + special discounts in our gift shop.
Vera Cumming, Jamaican Girl (c1951), Collection: National Gallery of Jamaica, donated in the Artist’s Memory by the Haddad Family of Toronto
The National Gallery of Jamaica is pleased to announce the donation of the painting Jamaican Girl (c1951) by Vera Cumming to its collection. Jamaican Girl is the second painting by Vera Cumming in the National Collection; the first is her Supplication (1948), which currently hangs at the Institute of Jamaica.
Vera Cumming was a Canadian artist who was trained at the Ontario College of Art. An adventurous and progressive-minded young woman, she travelled to Jamaica around 1945, possibly at the encouragement of Jamaican artist Albert Huie, who was a fellow student at Ontario College of Art. She initially taught art at St Hugh’s High School and in 1947 started teaching adult art classes at the Institute of Jamaica’s Junior Centre. These art classes had been started by Edna Manley around 1940 and paved the way for the 1950 establishment of the Jamaica School of Art and Craft (which is now part of the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts). The early students at the Junior Centre included Corah Hamilton, Vernal Reuben, David Pottinger, Henry Daley, Osmond Watson, Alexander Cooper, Ralph Campbell and Leonard Morris and the instructors included Edna Manley, Albert Huie, Cecil Baugh, and Vera Cumming. In 1949, Vera Cumming married the poet, journalist and literary critic Basil McFarlane (1922-2000), who had been among her students at the Junior Centre, but the marriage was short-lived and ended later that year.