Virtual Last Sundays to ft. Tribe Sankofa

On May 31, 2020, the National Gallery of Jamaica will for the first time present its Last Sundays programme virtually on its YouTube channel and Instagram Account. It will feature Tribe Sankofa and the ongoing exhibition Jamaica Jamaica! The video will be available online at 1:30pm.

Originally launched at the Philharmonie de Paris in 2017, Jamaica Jamaica! explores the beginnings of Jamaican music and how genres like Kumina, Revival, Mento, Ska, Rocksteady, Reggae, Dub and Dancehall developed into international phenomena. This virtual presentation revisits the vibrancy of the opening event during Reggae Month. 

A performing arts collective formed by Fabian Thomas, the award winning Tribe Sankofa has been an audience favourite at Last Sundays over the last few years. A vibrant and eclectic group of multi-talented performers they have combined their artistry to add an exciting new dimension to the performing arts landscape both locally and internationally. Their niche is “…borrowed and original spoken word/poetry, soulful song-styling uniquely blended with other visual and performing arts”. Tribe Sankofa has shared their unique offerings in diverse spaces including the Lignum Vitae Awards, Gungo Walk Alternative Music and Arts Festival, Arts in the Park and the Investiture of the Poet Laureate of Jamaica to name a few. For their Virtual Last Sundays performances they will be presenting pieces inspired by themes and personalities present in the Jamaica Jamaica! exhibition. 

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In Memoriam, Wallace Campbell, J.P., C.D. (1940 – 2020)

Wallace Campell - The Jamaica Magazine

Wallace Campbell (Credit: The Jamaican Magazine)

The National Gallery of Jamaica (NGJ) wishes to reflect on the passing of one of Jamaica’s leading art collectors and businessmen, Wallace Ransford Campbell. Campbell began his formal education at the Central Branch School and then moved on to the Excelsior College. He also attended Bowling Green State University in the United States of America, after being awarded a scholarship to study at the institution.  

A veteran and influencer in the Jamaican business community, Campbell was known as a “marketing guru” by his peers for his wit and passion in the field. Admired for his tenacity, Campbell’s marketing acumen led him to become the General Director of Grace Kennedy’s Merchandise Division in 1974. By 1976, he took the risk of leaving the company to purchase and begin operating the Lenn Happ supermarket, which he operated successfully for nearly 30 years before retiring from that enterprise in 2004. An active member of the United Congregation of Israelites and the Synagogue Trust Ltd (The Dictionary of Jamaican Personalities, 8th Edition); he also played a significant role in the Edna Manley Foundation, the Foundation for the Arts and the local Lay Magistrate Association among many other organizations. Campbell served as a member of the NGJ Board of Directors from 1992 to 2011. 

His interest in the visual arts (specifically painting) began in his youth. “From I was six, I started painting and drawing comic strips, cowboy characters like the Lone Ranger… In 1956, my best painting was of Egypt’s President Nasser which was entered in the Denham Shield School art competition” (Interview with O’Neil Lawrence and Roxanne Silent February 8, 2019, hereafter Wallace Campbell interview). 

Masquarade - Osmond Watson (Credit - The Jamaican Magazine)

Osmond Watson – Masquerade (Credit: The Jamaican Magazine)

As an adult, Campbell decided to pursue art collecting seriously, after attending the Mallica “Kapo” Reynolds Benefit Auction held at the NGJ in 1980, where he purchased several pieces. At its height, the Wallace Campbell Collection was reputed to be the largest private art collection in Jamaica, holding over 1,500 works. It archived a number of one-of-a-kind works from Jamaican artists such as David Pottinger, Alvin Marriot, Carl Abrahams, Gloria Escoffery, Henry Daley, Albert Huie, Barrington Watson, Milton George, George Rodney, Kapo, Everald Brown, Osmond Watson, among several others. Representing the wider Caribbean, Campbell acquired works by Hector Hyppolite, Philomé Obin, Seneque Obin, Rigaud Benoit, Wilson Bigaud, Andre Pierre, St Brice, Valcin, Philippe-Auguste, Castera Bazille from Haiti. From Cuba: Wifredo Lam, Víctor Patricio de Landaluze, Mariano Rodriquez, René Portocarrero, Fidelio Ponce de León. His avidly acquired collection of Jamaican and Caribbean artworks significantly contributed to the development and study of art history in the region and influenced the culture of Jamaican art connoisseurship within the local artistic community.

David Boxer - Pieta (Holocaust Series) - The Jamaican Magazine

David Boxer – Pieta (Holocaust Series) (Credit: The Jamaican Magazine)

Through his friendship with art historian and former Chief Curator of the NGJ the late Dr David Boxer, Campbell established a relationship with the Gallery and its curatorial staff that deepened his understanding of Jamaican art historical information, through the exhibitions and research programmes, alongside the general exchange of ideas (Wallace Campbell interview).  Campbell was a generous lender to several of the institution’s key exhibitions including Art and Emancipation in Jamaica: Isaac Mendes Belisario and his Worlds (2007), Materialising Slavery (2007), the Barrington Watson Retrospective (2012), and John Dunkley: Neither Day nor Night (2017). Always motivated to conduct independent research into Jamaican and Caribbean art historical information, Campbell systematically acquired artworks that demonstrated in some way the history of Jamaican art. One of his aspirations was the development of a ‘Museum of Caribbean Art’, within which he intended to include: an exploration of the topographical traditions of the eighteenth and nineteenth-century Jamaica; a broadening of the concept of Jamaican Art through an examination of all twentieth-century artists who came to the island from abroad and finally, the incorporation of artists from other Caribbean territories such as Cuba and Haiti. He had also extended the geographical focus of his private collection to include works from artists from outside of the Caribbean, such as those based in London and New York. To that end, he had acquired the home of well-known art patron and Art Deco furniture designer Burnett Webster on Seaview Avenue. Dubbed Seaview Fine Arts, this private gallery served as the venue for several exhibitions focusing on aspects of his collection as well as the works of contemporary Jamaican artists.   

View of the Island of Jamaica Springhead of Roaring River - George Roberston 1777 (Credit - The Jamaican Magazine)

George Roberston – View of the Island of Jamaica, Springhead of Roaring River, 1777 (Credit: The Jamaican Magazine)

His understanding of the value of giving back to society was demonstrated by his willingness to use his art collection in support of events geared towards community development; a remarkable example of the phrase “being empowered to empower others.” In 1996, he donated 100 works of art from his private collection to be featured at the Art and Orchid Exhibition hosted by the District Grand Lodge of Jamaica (B.C.), held at the Pegasus Hotel in aid of the South St. Catherine Community Project. For Campbell, the business of art collecting was an important investment for the future. He believed that young art collectors should aspire to be informed, develop a trained eye and seek advice from professionals in the field. He also felt that all art collectors should develop a relationship with the artists as collecting art was “…more than a hobby, [it is] a way of life that can give you immense pleasure” (Wallace Campbell interview). In 2013, he was awarded the Order of Distinction in the Rank of Commander Class (CD), for “Outstanding Contribution to the Private Sector [and] the Promotion of the Arts,” by the Government of Jamaica. 

The NGJ’s Board of Directors, management and staff, recognizes Wallace Campbell as an outstanding and accomplished Jamaican, for his work in preserving aspects of Jamaican art history, as well as for his patronage and promotion of the Jamaican arts. 

Further Reading: 

“Kapo Benefit Auction.” Jamaica Gleaner. 11 October 1980, p. 27. 

Murray-Deeks, Loraine. “Collecting Art: The Wallace Campbell Collection.” The Jamaican Art Issue. Summer 2007. 

National Honours and Awards. The National Honours and Awards Act — 1969. https://jis.gov.jm/media/Hons-Awards-Gl-2013-.pdf. 2013. Accessed March 31, 2020. 

The Dictionary of Jamaican Personalities 2004 – 2005. 8th Edition. Selectco Publications Limited.  

In Memoriam, Alexander Cooper, O.D (1934 – 2020)

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(From right) Alicia Brown, Alexander Cooper, Roxanne Silent, and Ann Cooper at the 2017 Jamaica Biennial

The National Gallery of Jamaica (NGJ) joins the visual arts community to reflect on the passing of renowned and respected Jamaican painter, Alexander Cooper, O.D, who died on March 10, 2020. Among the most beloved of Jamaica’s visual artists, Mr. Cooper is described as a figurative painter with an interest in abstraction and contemporary styles of painting (Petrine Archer). 

Born Joshua Alexander Cooper in Enfield, St Mary 1934, he realised his innate talent as a young boy at Elletson Elementary School in East Kingston (now the Vauxhall High School) though creating illustrations of Bible stories, requested of him by his teachers. Cooper’s talent also drew the attention of his family and friends who supported his journey into the artistic domain. The validation he received fuelled his passion to pursue the visual arts in a serious way. While growing up, Cooper admired and was inspired by the works of other Jamaican painters such as Albert Huie and Ralph Campbell. Following in their footsteps, Cooper excelled at painted genre scenes which documented the everyday happenings of Jamaican city and rural life (Petrine Archer).

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Alexander Cooper – Port Royal Tower, 1961

At the beginning of his journey as a professional artist, Cooper was awarded a government scholarship and matriculated to the Jamaica School of the Arts (now the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts) where he received a substantial part of his training as an artist, graduating in 1959. Cooper then expanded his vision towards a more international perspective, when he moved to New York in 1963 to study at The Art Students League and the School of the Visual Arts. After receiving formal training from among the best internationally, he returned to newly independent Jamaica in 1967 to contribute to the national development of his nation through visual arts.

Cooper was accurately described by Petrine Archer as an artist that emerged “… from a generation of painters that were the children of a newly formed Jamaican nationalism”. Upon his return, “… he set about continuing the work of Edna Manley and the pioneers and, along with fellow artist Osmond Watson began mounting exhibitions and passing on their knowledge at the School of Art (1970s) and other institutions of learning, including Kingston College” (Jamaica Observer 2020). 

Alexander Cooper has received numerous awards for his outstanding contribution to the development of visual arts in Jamaica. He was the recipient in 1962 and in 1964 of first prize in the Jamaica National Fine Arts Competition. Listed among his achievements, in 1965, at a very controversial time in American history for people of African descent, Alexander was the first Jamaican artist to be invited to hold an art show at the U.S. State Department in Washington D.C. (Olympia Gallery). He was presented with the Prime Minister’s Award in 1993 and the Institute of Jamaica’s Silver Musgrave Award in 2001. In 2016, Mr. Cooper was conferred with a national honour – the Order of Distinction (Officer rank) – by the Jamaican Government for his “outstanding contribution to the arts”. In 2017, the NGJ organized a tribute exhibition in honour of his career achievements, featured as part of the Jamaica Biennial of that year. In the accompanying article for the tribute exhibition, Monique Barnett-Davidson (then NGJ Assistant Curator) stated that, 

“Cooper has painted numerous portraits of local and international public figures, including key figures in the Jamaican art world. Alexander Cooper is renowned and indeed beloved for producing genre paintings that present a nostalgic, gently humorous view of Jamaican life, as well as for his portraiture and landscapes”.  

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Alexander Cooper – Old King Street (1988), Collection: Bank of Jamaica

Mr. Cooper was well known for his love of displaying the richness and vibrancy of Jamaican life – its people, the landscape and moments in everyday life, both past and present. During his lifetime, Mr Cooper – while representing the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts and the Arts Craftsmen Guild – served as part of the subcommittee used for the adjudication of annual exhibitions at the NGJ.

Alexander Cooper is celebrated as a well accomplished exhibitor locally the 1960s and has during his career, participated in most of the Annual National and Biennial exhibitions at the National Gallery of Jamaica. He has also exhibited internationally, including in New York, Mexico, Canada, London, and Germany. His latest exhibitions such as Celebrating Mothers 1999 and The Village 2002 demonstrated his interest in traditional values and using painting as a medium for social reform. These themes have also made his work attractive to collectors abroad such as Sidney Poitier, Ruby Dee and Angela Bassett, collectors of African American Art who recognize the same strains of race pride in his work (Petrine Archer). One of his most notable exhibitions was his anniversary exhibition entitled 50 Years–Then and Now (2012), at the Mutual Gallery in Kingston, Jamaica (Barnett-Davidson 2017). 

In this light, the NGJ’s Board of Directors, management and staff, honour Mr. Alexander Cooper – one of the founding fathers of the local art community – for his outstanding contribution to the national development of visual arts in Jamaica. 

Sources: 

Archer, Petrine. “Alexander Cooper.” Art  History, News and Reviews. n.d. http://petrinearcher.com/index.php/artist-bio/alexander-cooper

Barnett-Davidson, Monique. “Jamaica Biennial 2017 – Tribute to Alexander Cooper.” National Gallery of Jamaica Blog. 2017. 

https://nationalgalleryofjamaica.wordpress.com/category/alexander-cooper/ 

George A Smathers Libraries. “Alexander Cooper.” Artist Catalogue. n.d. http://exhibits.uflib.ufl.edu/aboutface/artists.html

Olympia Gallery. “Alexander Cooper.” n.p. n.d. http://www.alexandercooper.com/about.html

In Memoriam, Michael Stanley (1944 – 2020)

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Mike Stanley (provided by Donnette Zacca)

The National Gallery of Jamaica (NGJ)  remembers British-born, Jamaica-based artist Michael Stanley as a brilliant post-Abstractionist whose inspirations were drawn from Jamaica’s tropical environment. He moved to the island in the late 1980s, migrating with his wife Margaret – a Jamaican fibre/textile artist and lecturer – and his daughter Suzi. Michael Stanley was born in 1944 in Wales, United Kingdom. His development as a professional painter began as a student at the Chelsea College of Arts in London (1963 – 1967), as an participant of the Young Contemporaries student exhibitions at Chelsea; in 1966 he was awarded second place. As Stanley continued to paint throughout the 1970s and 1980s, he developed a form of visual rhetoric through which he used paint as a kind of language (Global Voices). 

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Michael Stanley – In the Swim

He has had three large one-man exhibitions, including Passion for Paint held at the University of the West Indies (Mona), as well as joint exhibitions with his wife Margaret. He participated in The Annual National Exhibition at the National Gallery of Jamaica in 2001 and the Jamaica National Biennial 2004 and 2006.  In addition to his career as an artist, Stanley was also an educator. He taught art in London and then Jamaica at the Caribbean School of Architecture at the University of Technology and the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts in Kingston. 

The NGJ’s Board of Directors, management and staff remembers, Michael Stanley for his stellar contribution to the Jamaican visual arts community. 

Sources: 

n.p. “From London to Kingston, British-Jamaican Artist Mike Stanley Speaks the Language of Paint”. Global Voices. 2016. https://globalvoices.org/2016/10/14/from-london-to- kingston-british-jamaican-artist-mike-stanley-speaks-the-language-of-paint

Jamaica Biennial. Catalogue. National Gallery of Jamaica. December 7 – March 15, 2015.

In Memoriam, Rafiki Kariuki (1951 – 2020)

 

Rafiki Kariuki - Tangle - NG031

Rafiki Kariuki – Tangle (featured in the 2019 NGJ Summer Exhibition)

In recognition of the passing of Rafiki Kariuki on January 14, 2020, the National Gallery of Jamaica (NGJ) would like to reflect on Kariuki as a celebrated visual artist and humanist.

Rafiki Kariuki was born in 1951, in Kingston, Jamaica. He attended the Jamaica School of Art (now: Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts) where he obtained a Diploma in Painting, 1980. Kariuki has been a regular exhibitor, particularly in the Annual National and Biennial exhibitions at the National Gallery of Jamaica (2017). He was also a participant in the recently held 2019 NGJ Summer Exhibition, in which he exhibited two mixed media works including Tangle. In 2004, he exhibited at the Jamaica National Biennial. He has also exhibited in the USA. In 1994, Kariuki was awarded a silver medal in the Jamaica Festival Fine Art Exhibition, organized by the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission. He also received several merits in the category of Photography. 

Kariuki can easily be described as an activist and liberator. He used his artworks as an avenue to raise awareness and generate discourse on the struggle of apartheid in South Africa during the 1980s. During his lifetime as a visual artist, Kariuki not only incorporated a political rhetoric in some of his pieces, but he also used aesthetics to comment on the relationship between human beings and spirituality. 

He has made a mark in the visual arts community and his works remain an important point of reference in raising awareness around issues of black struggle. 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 Rafiki Kariuki.

 

Sources:

Archer, Petrina. “Rafiki Kariuki.” Art  History, News and Reviews. n.d.  http://petrinearcher.com/index.php/artist-bio/rafiki-kariuki

Jamaica Biennial. Catalogue. National Gallery of Jamaica. February 24 – May 28, 2017.

Summer Exhibition. Catalogue. Nation Gallery of Jamaica. 2019. 

In Memoriam, Susan Shirley (1950 – 2019)

Mat183-SusanShirley, Building with Fret work

Susan Shirley – Building with Fretwork, 1999

In light of the passing of American-born painter Susan Shirley in October 2019, the National Gallery of Jamaica (NGJ) recognizes her for her contribution to the visual arts community. 

Born in 1950, Michigan, USA, she was formally trained at Michigan State University (MSU) where she earned her degree in Design at the College of Human Ecology with a Minor in Fine Art. After completing her studies she worked as a commercial Interior Designer in Detroit, Michigan, specializing in Architectural Renderings and Presentation.

Mrs. Shirley made Jamaica her home in 1976 after migrating to the island with her Jamaican husband, Greg Shirley. Determined to make a positive impact in Jamaica through her passion for art, she continued free-lance design and was encouraged by Grenadian sculptor Fitz Harrack, whom she met as a colleague while teaching art at the Convent of Mercy Academy (Alpha) in Kingston. Mrs. Shirley held and participated in many solo and group exhibitions throughout her career, including her participation in the 2004 Jamaica National Biennial exhibition. Among her repertoire of exhibitions, she has showcased her works in places such as Toronto, Antigua, Miami and New York. Within the art community in Jamaica, she is particularly known for her still-life studies, as well as her detailed watercolour works of old Jamaican houses. One example of the latter is Building with Fret Work, which was included in the Aaron and Marjorie Matalon donation to the NGJ permanent collection in 1999. 

Shirley’s lifetime passions included volunteer projects that appealed to her interest in history, archaeology and art. One perfect example of that was demonstrated when she championed for the restoration of the Rio Nuevo Battle Site in St. Mary, enamoured with that aspect of Jamaican history. Alongside her husband, she enthusiastically presented a case on the significance of the Battle site, the Rio Nuevo Battle Site Association was awarded the management agreement by the Jamaica National Heritage Trust in August 2004 and Mrs. Shirley was appointed Curator of the Rio Nuevo Battle Site museum.

The NGJ’s Board of Directors, management and staff remembers Susan Shirley for her commitment to preserving aspects of Jamaican heritage and the value she added to the visual arts community. 

For Further Reading:

Shirley, Susan. “Biography” https://www.susanshirley-jamaica.com/Biography.html 

“10 Things You Didn’t Know About Susan Shirley.” The Gleaner, January 13, 2013. http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130113/out/out2.html 

Silvera, Janet. “Susan Shirley: A Passion For Preserving Jamaica’s History.” The Gleaner, May 26, 2013. http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130526/out/out3.html