Last Sundays, April 26, 2015, featuring BLACK as COLE

ngj_Sunday_Opening_April 26,2015 (rgb)The National Gallery of Jamaica’s Last Sundays event for April 26, 2015 will feature a performance by the band BLACK as COLE.

Brainchild of songstress Cecile Black and bassist Craig Cole, BLACK as COLE’s performance style is a fusion of different genres: Alternative, Blues, Gospel, R&B, Reggae/Dub-Rock which they have integrated into a base component of Reggae and Dub; the result is a new genre that the band calls Jam-on- Dub.   Most of the band’s members became close during their time in the UWI Pop society at the Mona campus and according to the band their goal is to ‘to ignite your hearts with conscious uplifting messages of truth and love.’

BLACK as COLE performs mostly original material and cover versions are usually interpretations of songs with significant impact on the band. The band has been together for over three years and have graced a number of stages performing several times at the Jamaica Jazz & Blues Festival and venues such as Red Bones Blues Cafe'; Jamnesia; and Plug ‘n’ Play @ the Jonkanoo Lounge of the Wyndham Hotel to name a few. To date the band has released two official singles namely, ‘Musical Romance’ a R&B themed love song of how the founders of the band met; and also a Reggae cover of Adele’s ‘Hometown Glory’.

Visitors will also be able to view the Edna Manley and Kapo galleries, A.D. Scott galleries as well as our recently installed temporary exhibit featuring selections from the Gallery’s modern Jamaican art collection. This exhibit features major works by Carl Abrahams, Albert Artwell, Everald Brown, Gloria Escoffery, Colin Garland, Koren Der Harootian, Albert Huie, Eugene Hyde, Edna Manley, David Pottinger and Barrington Watson.

Doors will be open from 11 am to 4 pm, the performance starts at 1:30 pm. As is customary admission to the NGJ and guided tours and children’s activities will be free. The gift and coffee shop will be open for business and we welcome contributions to our donations box. The revenues from our shop and your donations help to fund programmes such as our Last Sundays.

WHAT WE HAVE IN STORE FOR YOU – UPCOMING EXHIBITIONS

Judith Salmon, Palimpsests (2014, detail)

Judith Salmon, Palimpsests (2014, detail)

Now that the Jamaica Biennial 2014 is behind us, we are pleased to let you know what we have in store for the rest of the year, in terms of exhibitions.

The first major exhibition will be Explorations III: Seven Women Artists, which is scheduled to open on May 31 and features work by Kereina Chang-Fatt, Berette Macaulay, Amy Laskin, Prudence Lovell, Judith Salmon, Jasmine Thomas-Girvan and Miriam Hinds-Smith, seven mid-career artists who are highly accomplished but who have not yet received significant national attention. This exhibition is presented as the third edition of our Explorations series, which started in 2013 with Natural Histories and explores the major issues and themes in our collection and in Jamaican art. Explorations III: Seven Women Artists asks whether the notion of women’s art is relevant in Jamaica today and how the work of female artists has been and is positioned vis-à-vis the conventional artistic hierarchies in Jamaica.

Amy Laskin - Flora and Coral Collaborate (2014)

Amy Laskin – Flora and Coral Collaborate (2014)

This will be followed by Young Talent 2015, which will feature the work of six to eight artists under forty years old. The Young Talent exhibitions, which were inaugurated in 1985, are designed to unearth and encourage new and emerging artists and to provide a platform for the development of contemporary art in Jamaica. The call for submissions can be found here – please note that deadline for submissions has Young Talent 2015 has been extended to Friday, June 26 and that the exhibition is now scheduled to open on August 30.

Banana Man

Alvin Marriott – Banana Man (1955, Collection: NGJ

Our final exhibition for the year will be Explorations IV: Masculinities which is scheduled to open on December 7. Masculinities, which is being curated by O’Neil Lawrence, explores the representation of masculinity in Jamaican art, with a special focus on works of art from our collection, and relates these representations to the dominant and alternative constructions of masculinity, personhood and nationhood that have emerged in pre- and post-independence Jamaica. Continue reading

LAST SUNDAYS, MARCH 29, 2015: CELEBRATING THEATRE MONTH

ngj_Sunday_Opening_Mar 29, 2015 (rgb) copy

The National Gallery of Jamaica’s Last Sundays event for March 29, 2015, will feature two short plays set in the galleries, Sure Thing by David Ives and Untitled #2 by Jim Gordon, which are staged in observation of Theatre Month.

Sure Thing is a short comic play featuring a chance meeting of two characters, Betty and Bill, whose conversation is continually reset by the use of a ringing bell, starting over when one of them responds negatively to the other. The play is directed by Peter Abrikian and features Craig McNally and Natalee Cole. Untitled #2 is about two “art critics” who view a painting by one of their favourite artists in an art gallery and come to strikingly different opinions as to the meaning of the work. Caught up in a fever of contrasting artistic and political views they come close to fisticuffs before the artist appears and sets them straight. This second play is directed by Brian Heap and features Jean-Paul Menou and Hilary Nicholson.

Visitors will also be able to view the Kapo and Edna Manley Galleries, the Historical Galleries, and the A.D. Scott Galleries, as well as a new temporary exhibition consisting of sections from the Gallery’s modern Jamaican collection. The latter includes major work by Edna Manley, Albert Huie, Carl Abrahams, Koren der Harootian, David Pottinger, Barrington Watson, Karl Parboosingh, Eugene Hyde, Mallica “Kapo” Reynolds, Everald Brown, Albert Artwell, Colin Garland, and Gloria Escoffery. Guided tours and children’s activities will be offered.

Doors will be open from 11 am to 4 pm, the plays start 1:30 pm. As is now customary, admission to the NGJ and guided tours and children’s activities will be free. The gift and coffee shop will be open for business and contributions to the donations box are welcomed. Revenues from our shops and donations help to fund programmes such as our Last Sundays.

When Images Come Home to Roost: Notes on Blue Curry’s PARADISE.jpg

Blue Curry - PARADISE.jpg, at the corner of Orange Street and Port Royal Street

Blue Curry – PARADISE.jpg, at the corner of Orange Street and Port Royal Street

Although the Jamaica Biennial 2014 has now closed, we intend to continue the dialogue. Here is a guest-post by freelance curator and art writer Nicole Smythe-Johnson, who served as project manager for the Biennial and had special responsibility for coordinating projects such as Blue Curry’s.

Bahamian artist Blue Curry flew from London, checking his contribution to the 2014 Jamaica Biennial as luggage. Almost 300 feet of wall poster, divided into sections of 8 by 10 feet were packaged in two large rolls and encased in cardboard. Even though the National Gallery had provided the artist with a letter explaining the nature of the work, and the fact that the piece would not to be returned to London after the exhibition (only because it would be destroyed by then), the customs officer was unconvinced.

Blue Curry - PARADISE.jpg

Blue Curry – PARADISE.jpg

As the person meeting Blue on behalf of the gallery, I was called into the customs hall to explain how exactly these were artworks and not advertisements, and why the giant rolls of poster were of “no commercial value”. I did my best, but after 15 or 20 minutes of trying to satisfy her philosophical and functional queries, I began to worry that we would have to leave the posters at customs that night, while the officials figured out what code should apply to this as yet unheard of class of object; artwork of “no commercial value”.

As a last ditch effort, Blue offered to show the officials a mock-up of the poster that he’d printed on a letter-size sheet. He handed the print over, a simple rectangle of gradated blue. The customs officer looked at us as if she wanted to say “yu tink mi born yesterday?”, but instead she said “all of that is just this?”

Blue Curry - PARADISE.jpg, mock-up of installation on Port Royal Street

Blue Curry – PARADISE.jpg, mock-up of installation on Port Royal Street

We left the airport shortly after, with the posters in our possession. Seeing that innocuous blue rectangle seemed to drain the fight out of the official. Surely something that simple wasn’t worth arguing over, it certainly didn’t look like it was worth much.

This has been a recurring theme with PARADISE.jpg. People ask the same question over and over: “But what is it?” As Blue and his motley crew of volunteer assistants (themselves young artists and art students) went from site to site, slathering wallpaper glue on abandoned buildings and painstakingly moulding the poster to crumbling facades, people came from everywhere to ponder the strange image. Some thought it was preparation for something else, “are you going to paint it?” Others approved of the intervention, “yeh man, pretty up di place.” Even if they weren’t sure what it was, “likkle colour.” Several offered advice: “Yu nu si se dat nu do good?” or “Wha kinna glue dat? Dem foreign glue naa go work pon dem dutty wall.” The public installation sessions became a little game, what input will be offered next?

Blue Curry and crew at work on PARADISE.jpg

Blue Curry and crew at work on PARADISE.jpg

Continue reading

Jamaica Biennial 2014 to Close on March 15 with Artists’ Talks

Artist Talk (Web)

The Jamaica Biennial 2014 is scheduled to close on Sunday, March 15, and to mark the occasion the National Gallery of Jamaica will exceptionally be open from 11 am to 4 pm on that day. A special programme of Artists’ Talks will be presented on that day, starting at 1:30 pm. Admission to the National Gallery of Jamaica and the Artists’ Talks will be free but contributions to our donations box are much appreciated and help to fund exhibitions and programmes such as the Biennial and our Sunday programming.

The Jamaica Biennial 2014 has been a landmark exhibition in several respects and has received significant critical acclaim, in the media and from visitors. Rebranded from what used to be the National Biennial, the Jamaica Biennial 2014 was re-conceptualized to have a more international outlook and to engage local and international audiences more effectively. It is the first Biennial to be judged by international curators – Sara Hermann from the Dominican Republic and Diana Nawi from the Perez Art museum in Miami. It is also the first to include non-Jamaican artists, Blue Curry (Bahamas), James Cooper (Bermuda), Gilles Elie-dit-Cosaque (Martinique), Sheena Rose (Barbados), Richard Mark Rawlins (Trinidad), who were invited to participate in the Special Projects section of the exhibition, along with the Jamaican-born Renee Cox. In another first, the Biennial is shown at more than one location: in addition to the main exhibition at the National Gallery itself, this includes Devon House, which features work by Greg Bailey, James Cooper, Laura Facey, Ebony G. Patterson, Oneika Russell, and Cosmo Whyte, and National Gallery West in Montego Bay, which features work from the Sacred Geometry series by Renee Cox. One special project, PARADISE.jpg by Blue Curry, consists of an intervention on the facades of several buildings in Downtown Kingston. Sunday, March 15, represents the last opportunity to see the Jamaica Biennial 2014 in its entirety.

The Jamaica Biennial 2014 is one of the largest exhibitions in the National Gallery’s history and it is arguably its most diverse exhibition to date. This diversity is reflected in the artists who have been invited to participate in the Artists’ Talks, which are divided into two panels. Panel 1, which is presented under the theme “Traditional Media/New Approaches,” explores how artists use traditional media and styles such as representational painting, ceramics and fibre art to produce work that has significant cultural and aesthetic currency in the present moment. This panel features Michael Layne, Tina Spiro, Katrina Coombs, and Samere Tansley and will be chaired by National Gallery Senior Curator O’Neil Lawrence. Panel 2, titled “Mapping the Social Terrain,” explores how artists engage with the social environment and the social and political issues of the 21st century in new, experimental media. This second panel features Sheena Rose, who is visiting Jamaica for the occasion, as well as Camille Chedda, Katherine Silvera-Sunley and Leasho Johnson and will be chaired by Executive Director Veerle Poupeye. Each artist will make a short presentation on their work in the Biennial and its context, followed by an open discussion at the end of each panel. Continue reading

NOTES ON THE BIENNIAL: NAVIGATING THE IMAGE ECONOMY

Kimani Beckford-02-02-02-02-1

Kimani Beckford – B.I.B (2014)

There has been quite a bit of discussion about the similarity of Kimani Beckford’s B.I.B., a large painting on view in the Jamaica Biennial 2014, and Barkley Hendricks’ Lawdy Mama (1969) in the collection of the Studio Museum in Harlem, and some have suggested that Beckford’s painting is overly derivative of the latter. The resemblance between the two works is beyond obvious, and clearly deliberate, but there are also significant differences.

Barkley Hendricks - Lawdy Mama (1969), Collection: The Studio Museum in Harlem

Barkley Hendricks – Lawdy Mama (1969), Collection: The Studio Museum in Harlem

While Hendricks’ realistically painted portrait represents a lanky, brown-skinned young woman with a large Afro who gazes at the viewer with stern confidence, Beckford’s subject is so dark-skinned that her features are practically invisible, except for the schematic eyes. Beckford’s painting is in actuality not a portrait at all but represents a more abstract “type” and reminds more of the “hyper-black” images of contemporary African-American artist Kerry James Marshall than of Barkley Hendricks’ portrait. The flattened, largely undefined features of Beckford’s figure transition almost seamlessly into the equally flat black halo/hair background and the woman also seems younger, shorter and less confident than Hendricks’ subject – an awkward young girl rather than a self-assured young woman. The fashionable, well-fitting 1960s dress in the Hendricks painting has been replaced by a less glamorous and ill-fitting, uniform-like outfit, which further adds to the deliberate awkwardness of Beckford’s depiction. And while Hendricks’ portrait is about life-size, Beckford’s is significantly larger, which gives the figure a more imposing and enigmatic presence.

Osmond Watson - Peace and Love (1969), Collection: NGJ

Osmond Watson – Peace and Love (1969), Collection: NGJ

Barkley Hendricks’ Lawdy Mama is representative of how black artists in the late 1960s and early 1970s challenged dominant, white representational codes by interpreting traditional iconographies in ways that made them assertively black – in fact, it is one of the icons of the Black Power era and makes a compelling Black is Beautiful statement. Lawdy Mama draws on a long history of Christian icons, particularly representations of Mary, which is alluded to by the halo-like hair and the gold background. The Jamaican artist Osmond Watson’s Rastafarian Christ in Peace and Love, which was also painted in 1969, is another example, albeit one with more explicit religious content. Such works not only make reference to traditional Christian imagery but also to the pop culture representations of blackness that were being articulated at that time. It is often assumed that Lawdy Mama is a portrait of the activist Angela Davis, whose trademark Afro had helped to legitimize and politicize natural black hairstyles, but it is actuality a portrait of Barkley’s cousin Kathy (and the title of the work comes from a Blues song that has appeared in many incarnations). Osmond Watson drew from the emerging visual culture of Rastafari and, particularly, its engagement with Ethiopian icon painting traditions. That Watson’s Peace and Love is also a self-portrait makes it an even more powerful endorsement of Rastafarian ideology as a positive social force at a time when the movement was still very controversial in Jamaican society and deemed violent and disruptive by the ruling classes. Both paintings are part of a complex economy of images, derived from art history and pop culture alike, and navigate that economy with deliberate and provocative political intent. Continue reading