The National Gallery of Jamaica deeply regrets to announce that the master sculptor Fitzroy (Fitz) Harrack has passed away on January 10, 2013.
Born in 1945 in St John’s, Grenada, Harrack received his early artistic training in Grenada and then Trinidad before attending the Jamaica School of Art (later Edna Manley College for the Visual and Performing Arts) on a scholarship. Upon his graduation in 1969, Harrack settled in Jamaica and began exhibiting in group and solo shows at well-known venues such as the Bolivar Gallery and the Institute of Jamaica. He was a regular exhibitor at the National Gallery of Jamaica where he participated as an invited artist in the Annual National exhibition and subsequently, the National Biennial. He was one of the artists selected for the prestigious Jamaican Art 1922-1982 exhibition, a major survey of modern Jamaican art which was toured in the USA, Canada and Haiti 1983 to 1985 by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service. He most recently exhibited at the National Gallery in the 2008 National Biennial, to which he contributed a metal mask, and in the inaugural exhibition of the Guy McIntosh Donation, which included a major, untitled and undated abstract carving.
Fitz Harrack is best known for his sculptural work in wood, metal and ceramic media. Many of his works are abstract, such as his Caribbean Splash Forms series (1977-1992) of ostensibly formalist wood carvings but, as noted Art Historian Petrine Archer-Straw observed “Harrack’s modernist approach has always been tempered by his need to communicate through his work, his interest in subject matter, and his reading of society, characteristics that make his work accessible to the Caribbean viewer.” The Caribbean Splash Forms, for instance, were inspired by Caribbean natural forms and furthermore used local woods.
In other sculptural works, Fitz Harrack more directly commented on Caribbean history, culture and society, using the human figure as his main focus. He had a strong interest in music and dance and his ceramic relief Spirit of Togetherness, a public commission near the entrance of the Sangster’s International Airport in Montego Bay, which depicts “a feeling of living, working together and playing through music and dance”, as he related to Normadelle Whittle in 1985. The work was created on the occasion of Jamaica’s 21st anniversary of Independence in 1983 and, to further quote Fitz Harrack, is based on “dance movements [that] were extracted from studies and sketches from our own indigenous dance history – our National Dance Theatre Company performances from the early 60s, starting with Etu and Dinky Minny.”
Spirit of Togetherness was one of several commissions Harrack executed and another notable commission was Stations of Christ (1977-1978) at the Holy Cross Church in Half Way Tree, which depicts the Passion of Christ from His arrest to His crucifixion in a series of deeply moving, expressionist relief woodcarvings. There was also a more private side to Fitz Harrack’s work which was most obvious in his paintings and drawings that contemplated human relationships, the body and the erotic, through sensuous, curvilinear figural forms.
In addition to his own work as an artist, Fitz Harrack also worked as a restorer of sculpture and he is best known for his restoration in 2010 of Edna Manley’s Bogle (1965) monument, which had been badly damaged while installed in its original location in front of the Morant Bay Courthouse.
Fitz Harrack was also an accomplished art teacher and taught at his alma mater, the Jamaica School of Art, where he headed the Sculpture department for several years. He also taught at several high schools, namely the Alpha Academy and the Hillel Academy, and also at the Tivoli Gardens Community Centre. He served on the Jamaica Festival Committee in the 1980s, where he was instrumental in the development of the Festival Fine Arts exhibition, and is also a past Board member of the National Gallery. He received the Gold Medal for Sculpture in the 1975 Jamaica Festival of Fine Art Exhibition and the Order of Distinction in 1988.
Fitz Harrack’s passing is a major loss to the local artistic community and the Board and Staff of National Gallery extend their deepest condolences to his spouse, the noted ceramicist Norma Rodney Harrack, and his other family members and many friends.