In Retrospect – Section 5: NEW ROUTES

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Here is the fifth major text panel in the In Retrospect: 40 Years of the National Gallery of Jamaica exhibition, which continues until November 15:

This section explores how the National Gallery has responded—and in many ways contributed—to the new directions that are currently emerging in Jamaican art, which is characterized by a bold contemporary outlook, a strong affinity with popular and online culture, a new, open-ended and more critical engagement with issues of Jamaicanness, and the use of various new media, including digital media.

The Gallery first positioned itself as a platform for the artistic development and emerging artists in the mid-1980s, with exhibitions such as the first Young Talent and Six Options: Gallery Spaces Transformed, both in 1985. There have been five Young Talent exhibitions since then, the most recent of which was staged in 2010, and in 2013 we staged New Roots, another major exhibition of young artists that built on the Young Talent concept. The Annual National exhibitions, which in 2002 became the National Biennial, while inclusive of all major trends in Jamaican art, have also been instrumental in encouraging experimentation and exposing new and emerging artists.

Six Options was the first exhibition of installation art in Jamaica and actively encouraged local artists to experiment more with media and formats. Dawn Scott’s popular installation A Cultural Object was acquired from this exhibition and is presently undergoing restoration. It will soon be available again for public viewing. However, Ebony G. Patterson’s Cultural Soliloquy (A Cultural Object Revisited) (2010), which was part of the Young Talent V exhibition in 2010, pays active tribute to this ground-breaking work and repositions Dawn Scott’s cultural critique in the contemporary Jamaican context.

In 2014, the National Gallery staged Anything with Nothing: Art from the Streets of Urban Jamaica its first exhibition of street art—an important cultural phenomenon that dates from at least the 1930s in Jamaica but had not before been actively acknowledged by the National Gallery. We are in the process of acquiring several works from this exhibition and two, by Sand and Vermon ‘Howie’ Grant, are featured in this section.

Other works in this section have been drawn from the Young Talent V, New Roots (to which this section title makes ironic reference), and the recent National Biennials, and together this section presents a sample of some of the new artists and directions the National Gallery has featured in recent years.

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