The National Gallery of Jamaica (NGJ) is pleased to announce the homecoming of the exhibition John Dunkley: Neither Day nor Night April 29-July 29, 2018 after its eight-month run at the Pérez Art Museum in Miami (PAMM) where it was hailed as one of “the most exciting museum shows around the US in 2017”.
Little in the history of Western art prepares us for Dunkley, wrote the late Dr David Boxer (1946-2017), Dunkley historian and curatorial advisor to PAMM. “There is a hypnotic rhythmic intensity in Dunkley’s paintings that is alien to English and American masters,” John Dunkley (b. 1891, Savanna-la-Mar — d. 1947, Kingston) is considered one of Jamaica’s first and finest ‘Intuitive’ or self-taught artists and the title of the show is a reference to his work’s idiosyncratic mood and palette: detailed, haunting imageries of landscapes, with psychologically and psycho-sexually suggestive underpinnings.
Though a selection of Dunkley’s work is on permanent display at the NGJ, only 50 paintings by Dunkley exist in the world. The exhibition’s return home then gives local audiences the rare opportunity to see this collection of thirty-four (34) paintings and nine (9) sculptures together for the first time since the NGJ Retrospective of his work in 1976.
Aside from his inclusion in the 1939 World’s Fair in San Francisco and the NGJ/Smithsonian travelling exhibition of 1983, Dunkley’s work was relatively unknown in the United States until PAMM’s light shone on Dunkley as a beacon of modern and contemporary art from the Caribbean. The Miami exhibition, organized by Curators Diana Nawi, former Associate Curator at PAMM along with Nicole Smythe-Johnson, independent curator, received rave reviews from ArtForum, Miami Rail, The Huffington Post, among others and art critic Matthew Higgs lamented the fact that he would have included it in his Best of 2017 list had he seen it sooner.
Smythe-Johnson, assisted by the NGJ Curatorial team, will oversee the local abridged installation of the show. An accompanying monograph will be published and includes: Dr David Boxer’s last essay, which brings together over forty years of research into Dunkley’s life and work; an essay by Olive Senior that contextualises Dunkley within his historical moment; and an essay by the exhibition’s curators.
The monograph and the exhibition together present not only what Dunkley has been for Jamaica and the region, but also what he could become for the world.