Jamaica Biennial 2017 – Special Projects: Nadia Huggins

The main opening event of the Jamaica Biennial 2017 is on Sunday, February 26, starting at 1:30 pm at the National Gallery of Jamaica (door are open fro 11 am to 4 pm). The work of Nadia Huggins, who contributed one of the special projects, is on view at the National Gallery.

Nadia Huggins is a self-taught conceptual documentary photographer from St Vincent & the Grenadines. Her photographs explore Caribbean culture and identity through people, self-portraits and the landscape. She is also the co-founder of ARC Magazine and a full-time freelance graphic designer. She currently lives in Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago. Her recent exhibitions include Caribbean Queer Visualities (2016) at the Outburst Queer Arts Festival, Thread Gallery, Belfast, Northern Ireland, and Vision Archipelagiques (2016) at the Fondation Clement in Martinique. She says that “my work encompasses and explores the many recesses of life’s darkest experiences. I feel that there are sociological structures within the Caribbean that are receptors of a lot of uncharted emotions. This I think is a culminated result of years of suppression and repression by its people.”

Jamaica Biennial 2017 – Special Projects: David Gumbs

 

Tomorrow (February 24 @ 7 pm) is the opening of the Jamaica Biennial 2017 at National Gallery West in Montego Bay, where David Gumbs’ Xing Wang project is featured. Here is a preview.

David Gumbs (1977, St Martin) studied at the Visual Arts School in Fort-de-France, Martinique, in 2001 and majored in interactive multimedia conception at Les Ateliers, L’ENSCI in Paris in 2002. His work has been shown nationally and internationally, including recently: Digital (2016), National Gallery of Jamaica; Video Islands (2015), Anthology Film Archives, New York; Transforming Spaces (2014), National Art Gallery of the Bahamas; Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival (2014); and the Martinique Biennial (2013), Fort-de-France. Since 2009, Gumbs teaches multimedia, transmedia and motion design at the Visual Arts School in Fort-de-France, Martinique. He “explores the unseen, the cycle of life, the nature within, and digital rhizome macroscopic universes, across a dynamic multimedia oeuvre, including painting, photography and experimental video.” Gumbs in 2016 participated in a Davidoff Initiative residency in Beijing, China, and his contribution to the Jamaica Biennial 2017 consists of an interactive video project titled Xing Wang (Blossoms), which he developed during that residence.

Website: http://www.davidgumbs.com/

Jamaica Biennial 2017 – Special Projects: Marcel Pinas

Marcel Pinas from Suriname is another special invitee to the Jamaica Biennial 2017. He is presenting a lecture on his work at the Edna Manley College on February 23 at 2 pm.

Marcel Pinas (1971, Pelgrimkondre, Marowijne Suriname) studied at the Nola Hatterman Art Academy (Suriname); the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts; and the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam (Netherlands). In 2010 he founded the Tembe Art Studio to share his experience and knowledge with the Surinamese community, starting in Moengo, in his birth district Marowijne, followed by the opening of the Contemporary Art Museum Moengo (CAMM) in July 2011. The themes and formal characteristics of Pinas’ work derive from the Maroon culture of Suriname, particularly his own N’dyuka Maroon community. Pinas produces installations and large scale works for public places, as well as mixed media paintings. His contribution to the Jamaica Biennial 2017 is an installation project that reinterprets the Maroon tradition of sharing food with the Ancestors in a contemporary context. Pinas lives in Suriname.

Website:  marcelpinas.net

Jamaica Biennial 2017 – Special Projects: Raquel Paiewonsky

The Jamaica Biennial 2017 (February 24-26, 2017) features six special projects by international artists, who participate by invitation. This is the first feature on one such artist, Raquel Paiewonsky, whose work is on view at the National Gallery of Jamaica in Kingston.

Raquel Paiewonsky (1969, Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic) holds a BFA from Parsons School of Design in New York City and works across a range of media, including painting, sculpture, installation and photography. She has exhibited widely internationally and her work is included in international collections such as Daros-Latinoamérica, Zürich, Switzerland; the RISD Museum, Rhode Island, USA; Museum of Modern Art, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; Centro León, Santiago, Domincan Republic. Paiewonsky is the recipient the Gran Premio Eduardo León award in 2006, 2008 and 2012, and was included in the 20th and 22nd editions of the National Visual Arts Biennial of Santo Domingo. She was awarded the Davidoff Initiative residency in Berlin in 2015. The body of work Guardarropíai,  which is featured in the Jamaica Biennial 2017, was, as Paiewonsky explained, “created as a natural reaction to the highly questionable circumstances surrounding the personal freedoms of women in the Dominican Republic, where different forms of violence, the denial of basic rights and an absurdly biased legislation, perpetuate negative gender attitudes. These 9 photographs of women wearing their particular garments are the symbolic embodiment of the vision where women do not decide for their own bodies, abortion is illegal even when women’s life is at risk, sex education is still frowned upon and domestic violence keeps escalating.”

Website: raquelpaiewonsky.com

Jamaica Biennial 2017 – Tribute to Alexander Cooper

Here is the text for the second tribute exhibition in the Jamaica Biennial 2017, which opens this weekend with several events. The Alexander Cooper tribute is on view at the National Gallery of Jamaica in Kingston.

Alexander Cooper was born in St Mary, Jamaica in 1934. In 1954, he received a Government scholarship to attend the Jamaica School of Art (now the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts), from which he graduated in 1963. He also attended the Art Students League in New York and the New York School of the Visual Arts. He spent a number of years teaching at Kingston College and the Jamaica School Art, following his return to Jamaica after his studies in the USA. Alexander Cooper has been a regular exhibitor locally and internationally since the 1960s, and has participated in most Annual National and Biennial exhibitions at the National Gallery of Jamaica. One of his most notable was his anniversary exhibition entitled 50 Years–Then and Now (2012), at the Mutual Gallery in Kingston, Jamaica. He has received several awards for his contributions to visual arts in Jamaica, including the Prime Minister’s Award (1993) and the Institute of Jamaica’s Silver Musgrave Award (2001). In 2016, he was conferred with the Order of Distinction (Officer Class) by the Government of Jamaica. Cooper lives and works in Cooper’s Hill, St Andrew, Jamaica.

Tribute

Today, Alexander Cooper is renowned and indeed beloved for producing genre paintings that present a nostalgic, gently humorous view of Jamaican life, as well as for his portraiture and landscapes. However, throughout his career, he has explored a surprising range of aesthetic approaches which have included abstract and expressionist styles and a variety of subject matter. Cooper regularly credits Jamaican artist Ralph Campbell—his tutor at the Jamaica School of Art—for providing crucial insights on the development of images in paint. He has also credited American painter Robert Brackman—his tutor at the Art Students League of New York—who helped him to refine his figure painting technique.

The types of paintings, prints and watercolours that he produced as an emerging artist during the 1960s, coincided with an ethos adapted by the likes of Eugene Hyde, Milton Harley and Karl Parboosingh, who applied elements of modernist abstraction to Jamaican subject matter. Even before going to New York to study around 1963, Cooper’s paintings showed a clear desire to move beyond the foundations of his post-impressionist beginnings, into a more gestural engagement with paint as a medium, as well as line, shape and colour as compositional elements.

By the time he returned to the island a few short years later, he continued his exploration of expressive painting, eventually towards the point of abstraction. Stevedore (1967) is a highly stylized depiction of a male figure, which has been rendered almost exclusively by a multitude of slashing lines of varied intensities. The result is not a static human form but one that appears to be in motion, as the bow of its legs anchors it to the base of the composition. Cooper continued his sojourn in the possibilities of abstract compositions with his Children’s Series of the mid to late 1970s. Here, Cooper attempts to mimic the naiveté of a child’s drawing or scribble, juxtaposed with minimal yet emotive colour palettes.

From the late 1970s onwards, Cooper started focusing on representational paintings, featuring more realistic depictions of people and environments. Though more conservative than his previous canvases, Cooper continued to experiment with various approaches to expression in terms of subject, composition and colour. His erotic line drawings of the early 1980s stand out because of their elegant simplicity and more daring subject matter, although the curvilinear, dynamic approach to line and composition ties in those works with the rest of his oeuvre.

Cooper however began to settle for a more recognizable style and subject matter around that time, which is evident in the painting Hide and Seek (1979), which depicts children at play in a garden. This work is quite colourful but is united by a subtle series of blue tonalities evident in the complexion of the children and the surrounding environment. This approach to palette—with particular regards to the use of blue undertones—has become one of the signatures of an Alexander Cooper painting. Though he still practices realist portraiture, Cooper’s genre scenes have acquired a gently caricatural quality which adds a humorous element to his loving depictions of what he regards as vanishing but valuable aspects of Jamaican life. He has also continued to explore his interest in architecture, in a series of series of historical scenes of Kingston inspired by archival photographs and landmark buildings.

Cooper has painted numerous portraits of local and international public figures, including key figures in the Jamaican art world. There are also paintings and prints that are more surrealist in nature and tie into themes of memory and aspiration.  His Symbol of Life (n.d.) combines both subject areas and is his tribute to the surrealist Jamaican-Australian painter Colin Garland.

Alexander Cooper is one of the most prolific artists of his generation and he is certainly one of the most versatile. We hope that this small tribute will generate greater awareness of the quality and range of his artistic practice.

Monique Barnett-Davidson
Assistant Curator

Jamaica Biennial 2017: Tribute to Peter Dean Rickards

While we continue to prepare for the Jamaica Biennial 2017, which opens with several events from February 24 to 26, we now present the first of several features on artists in the exhibition, starting with Peter Dean Rickards, one of two artists to whom the Biennial pays special tribute with a special exhibition of his work. Here is a short bio and the tribute text, which was produced by the Afflicted Yard team of Russell Hergert, Ross Sheil and Shayne Morris, who preserve Rickards’ artistic legacy. The Peter Dean Rickards tribute will be on view at the NGJ in Kingston.

BIO

Peter Dean Rickards (1969-2014), was an influential and innovative self-taught photographer, videographer and publisher, who straddled the worlds of unique photojournalism, fashion photography, music video production and fine arts. He called himself a “media terrorist” and launched his website The Afflicted Yard, which provided provocative but poetic visual and verbal commentary on various aspects of Jamaican life. He successfully exhibited his work outside of Jamaica, first in Switzerland, then in London along with various unique contributions to projects and venues worldwide, while this Biennial will be his first major exhibition in Jamaica. The art world did not escape his sardonic eye, such as his collaboration with L.A. Lewis who became “The Conceptual Artist,” in a hilarious spoof of the pretentiousness of the art world, while literally exposing and cutting down the cult of Banksy. He also published the magazine FIRST, which was impeccably designed and produced featuring his photographic work and creative direction. FIRST set a new standard in local magazine publishing. At the time of his passing he was also shooting unique fly-on-the-wall documentaries, and gathering incredible international momentum.

© Peter Dean Rickards

TRIBUTE

“We are Jamaicans living within and without cultural control. We are at once proud nationalists and harsh critics of our country of origin. A country known for its extremes. A place packed with originality and creative energy that continues to flourish despite the current socio-political state that has removed the personal pride of many. An island filled with beauty unsurpassed and ugliness that would make a rat puke. This is the Afflicted Yard. A place of extremes where you will see life as we see it.” 

– Peter Dean Rickards (1969-2014)

Peter exposed Jamaica to the world as “an unofficial member of the Jamaican Tourist Board,” as he put it. He captivated by destroying typical stereotypes of the island and replacing them with stronger images of reality. Untrained ‘officially’ as an artist, he started shooting with a 1-megapixel point-and-shoot but with an innate sense of the beauty of natural lighting, how to uniquely frame his subject, and instil a gut-wrenching power of the story behind them. At times harsh but also equally sensitive and dignified.

At the beginning of the millennium, he was figuring out how to use glitchy dial-up internet to stream sound systems live from a Constant Spring Road basement, while intercepting taxi driver radios for street news, all with AfflictedYard.com as his evolving canvas and forum. Photography was a happy accident as he captured a high-point in dancehall culture, while introducing new perspectives on traditional and daily-life subject matter, never before seen in such a way through a lens.

AfflictedYard.com though often controversial was a vital footprint for Jamaica emerging online; Peter was creating blogs, memes and digital videos from a decade-and-a-half-ago, along with the groundbreaking print magazine FIRST. He was always ahead of his time, well before social media and before anyone had smartphones. Above it all, he was infamous for remaining true to his passion, his imagery and his perspectives – and the work he’s left behind will serve his manifesto above, long into the future.

All photos are copyright of the Peter Dean Rickards Estate, all rights reserved.