Save the Date – “John Dunkley: Neither Day nor Night” to open on Sunday April 29, 2018

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.

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In Memoriam Gene Hendricks Pearson O.D. (1946-2018)

Gene Pearson – photograph courtesy of Taynia Nethersole

The National Gallery of Jamaica received the sad news of the passing of Master sculptor, ceramist and teacher Gene Hendricks Pearson O.D. on March 15.

Born in 1946 in Wood Hall St Catherine; Pearson was only 15 years old when he was was first introduced to the medium of clay at the Jamaica School of Art now the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts in 1960. He studied under Jamaica’s Master Potter Cecil Baugh with whom he developed a close relationship; Pearson recounted that “…[Baugh] was like a father to me and I was like the son he never have.” He was one of the first two students to graduate from the school with a Diploma in Ceramics in 1965 and subsequently went on to teach at his alma mater for almost eighteen years and also taught drawing and painting at Calabar and Vere Technical High Schools in the early 1970s.

After he stopped teaching at the School of Art he began dividing his time between Jamaica and Northern California working with the Potters Studio in Berkley. He used the facilities there to produce his larger sculptures and his bronze works and also conducted workshops at University of Berkley and participated in exhibitions in California. He was also known to be a keen cultural entrepreneur having opened an eponymous gallery in New Kingston where he sold his ceramic and sculptural works.

While he produced more conventional ceramics, such as vases and bowls, Pearson was best known for his sculptural work, especially his popular heads and masks which celebrated black beauty and dignity. Inspired by the arts of the ancient Nubia and Benin as well as Rastafari culture, the introverted monumentality of his sculptural works made them amongst the most distinctive and recognizable of the artists of his generation.

Gene Pearson – Mother (1992), bronze, Aaron and Marjorie Matalon Collection, NGJ

“I have always thought that my work speaks for me. I am not a man who does speak much. My work is very spiritual. All my powers come from God and nature and I execute them through clay…”

Gene Pearson Raku Head nd

He worked extensively with local clays with varying properties and colours, sourced from locales such as Castleton, Trench Town and Clarendon. His ceramic work also showed the results of his constant experimentation with the ancient Japanese technique of Raku-style firing, of which he was an acknowledged master. The characteristic crackled surface of his Raku ware was used with great finesse in his sculptural forms and had become part of his signature style.

Pearson boycotted the National Gallery for several years while it was at its Devon House location when it didn’t recognize ceramics as fine art and was successful in his mission of gaining greater local recognition for ceramics and ceramic sculpture.

His work is represented in major Jamaican collections, such as the National Gallery of Jamaica, the Bank of Jamaica and the Hardingham Collection, as well as the private collections of international celebrities such as Stevie Wonder, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Diahann Carroll, and Alice Walker. His ceramic works have also served as official Jamaican gifts to Heads of States and other public figures including Leonid Brezhnev of the Soviet Union, Prime Minister Phan Van Dong of Vietnam, President Lopez Portillo of Mexico, President Nelson Mandela of South Africa, Roberta Flack, Maya Angelou and President Bill Clinton of the USA.

Gene Pearson – Sculptured Pot (1987), Collection: NGJ, Gift of Ken and Patricia Ramsay

In 2010 the Institute of Jamaica awarded Pearson the Silver Musgrave Medal for outstanding merit for his contribution to the field of art and in 2015, he was awarded the Order of Distinction — Commander Class, for his contribution to the development of the fine arts in Jamaica. This was an upgrade to the Officer Class designation he had received some years prior.

The Board of Directors and the staff of the National Gallery of Jamaica wish to extend their deepest condolences to the family and friends of Gene Pearson.

In Memoriam Jacquelyne Hussey-Pearson (1962-2018)

Jacueline Hussey Pearson

Photo courtesy of Amitabh Sharma

The National Gallery of Jamaica received the sad news of the passing of Jacquelyne Hussey-Pearson on March 12. Known to her friends and others in creative circles as ‘Lady Jacquelyne,’ she pursued a career as a visual artist, fashion designer, short filmmaker and Didgeridoo player and approached life with an infectious positivity that left its mark on all who interacted with her.

A major proponent of abstraction, her paintings documented personal struggles, triumphs and also reflected the major influences in her life. She exhibited extensively both locally and abroad and was involved in several initiatives that promoted Jamaican visual arts one of which was the Wonderland Fine Art Gallery at RedBones which has had over 200 artists exhibiting since its inception.

She was a vibrant and energetic presence in the artistic community and she will be greatly missed.  The Board of Directors and the Staff of the National Gallery of Jamaica wish to extend our deepest condolences to her family and friends.

 

In Memoriam Dorothy Henriques-Wells (1926 – 2018)

Albert Huie – Portrait of Dotty Henriques (1952) (detail) Collection NGJ

On March 5, 2018, Jamaican painter and educator Dorothy Henriques-Wells passed away at the age of 92 in Miami. Henriques-Wells was born in St Andrew in 1926 to parents who were themselves actively engaged as creatives. Her father Llewelyn was a jeweler but it was her mother, Lilieth an oil painter who often painted the flora and landscapes that surrounded their home that would be her earliest inspiration.

Henriques-Wells showed promise as an artist quite early in her life and declared at age 12 that art was to be her calling. She was sent to take art classes with Armenian artist Koren der Harootian and would go on to win numerous prizes for art as a student at Wolmer’s High School. In 1947 she enrolled at the Ontario College of Art – now the OCAD University and it was while there that her interests expanded from the natural bounty of her native Jamaica, to portraiture and her thesis painting depicted a black model wearing a traditional headwrap. She became the College’s first black alumnus in 1950; and later returned to Jamaica, marrying veterinary surgeon Carl F. Wells in 1956, with whom she raised three children.

Dorothy Henriques-Wells – Mountain Scape (nd)

Henriques-Wells made a significant contribution to the artistic scene of Jamaica. She opened a commercial gallery called the Art Wheel in 1968 which represented other local artists and went on to help found the Jamaican Artists and Craftsmen Guild. She was also an art teacher for more than twenty years and exhibited numerous times in Kingston at the Institute of Jamaica’s All Island shows, the Victoria Craft Market Tercentenary as well as in the National Gallery of Jamaica’s Annual National and Biennial exhibitions.

A gifted painter who shared her mother’s affinity for the natural Jamaican landscape Henriques-Wells painted mostly in the realist watercolour style that she had developed during her studies at OCAD; Associate Professor in the Faculty of Arts at OCAD Andrea Fatona on first seeing her work described her it as follows:

Her poetic, realist approach to her subjects – nature and humans –  is sparse, flowing and vibrant with sun-kissed colours.

Dorothy Henriques- Wells – Untited (nd)

In 1987, the Institute of Jamaica awarded Dorothy Henriques-Wells the Silver Musgrave Award for outstanding merit in the field of visual arts. Her legacy continues through the many children she taught and inspired – including her own –  with her vibrancy and passion for art.

The Board of Directors and the Staff of the National Gallery of Jamaica wish to extend our deepest condolences to the Family and friends of Dorothy Henriques-Wells.

Panel Discussion “Portraits and Abstraction: A Conversation” On Thursday March 29 @ 1:30 pm

On Thursday, March 29, 2018, the National Gallery of Jamaica will be hosting a panel discussion entitled Portraits and Abstraction: A Conversation at 1:30 pm. This event will function as a reflection on our most recent exhibitions Explorations V: Portraits in Dialogue and Explorations VI: Engaging Abstraction, which ran from December 19, 2017 to March 25, 2018. The discussion will be moderated by independent writer and curator Nicole Smythe-Johnson and will feature Senior Curator O’Neil Lawrence and Assistant Curator, Monique Barnett-Davidson, curators of the latest installments in the National Gallery’s Explorations exhibition series which was initiated in 2013.

Portraits in Dialogue examined the significance and conflicted politics of artistic portraiture in the development of Jamaican art from the 18th century to the present, looking at issues such as race, class, gender, as well as the ideas about art and the artist that are reflected in the portrait. Engaging Abstraction examined abstraction as a modern image making approach that deviates from the more literal and popularized representational choices practiced by artists from Jamaica, the Caribbean and its Diaspora. The significant impact of abstraction on Jamaican and Caribbean art can seen in our collection which features numerous works of art that qualify as abstract, or at least as abstracted.

The exhibitions presented the foundations of two distinct yet dominant groups of representational choices practiced by artists, choices that can still be observed in contemporary artwork. Whether treated as separate disciplines or hybridized through a plethora of media, contemporary artists essentially make one of the two choices to explore an immense diversity of subject matter which include the social, the corporeal or the philosophical. The curators of the National Gallery of Jamaica have reflected upon these concepts and ideas throughout some of its most recent and successful exhibitions and felt that the next edition of the Explorations series should explore these trends as historical continuities that are evidenced in our national collection.

The public forum Portraits and Abstraction: A Conversation is free and open to the public. Brochures for the exhibitions will be on sale in the National Gallery Gift Shop.

Last Sundays March 25, 2018 to feature Tribe Sankofa

The National Gallery of Jamaica’s Last Sundays programming for March will feature a special performance by Tribe Sankofa, presenting from their repertoire: A Tribe Ting. Their production will also include a performance by special guest Jamila Falak. Visitors will have a last opportunity to view our exhibitions Portraits in Dialogue and Engaging Abstraction, both, part of our Explorations series before they close.

Tribe Sankofa

Tribe Sankofa is a performing arts collective brought together by Fabian Thomas and comprised of multi-talented performers. This vibrant and eclectic collective combines their artistry to add an exciting new dimension to the performing arts landscape both locally and globally. Their niche, as described by founder Thomas is seen as “…borrowed and original spoken word/poetry, soulful song styling blended with other visual and performing arts.”

Jamila Falak

The National Gallery’s Explorations V and VI are part of an open ended series of exhibitions that examine major themes and issues in Jamaica’s art and visual culture. Exploration V: Portraits in Dialogue, examines through visual juxtaposition, the complicated and often times political significance of portraiture in Jamaican art. Exploration VI: Engaging Abstraction, offers a look into abstraction as a modern and contemporary image-making approach, of which up until the 1960’s, was considered contradictory to ideas of representation.  The significant impact of abstraction on Jamaica and Caribbean art can be seen in our collection which features numerous works of art that qualify as abstract, or at least abstracted.

As is customary for our Sunday programmes, the doors will open to the public from 11 am to 4 pm, with Tribe Sankofa’s performance at 1:30 pm. Admission is free and free guided tours will be also be available to. Our Gift and Coffee shop will  also be open for business and contributions to the donation box will be welcomed. The revenue from our Gift shop and donation box help to fund programmes such as our Explorations series as well as our Last Sundays programming.