21st CENTURY KAPO – SATURDAY FEBRUARY 17, 2018

As part of our programming for Black History Month, the National Gallery of Jamaica (NGJ) will be hosting a special event on Saturday February 17, 2018, at 1:30 pm entitled 21ST Century Kapo. Mallica “Kapo” Reynolds is considered to be Jamaica’s foremost Intuitive artists; and the newly reinstalled gallery features a selection of sculptures and paintings from the Larry Wirth Collection, the John Pringle Collection and the Aaron and the Marjorie Matalon Collection. The works in these galleries showcase the broad subject matter and iconography that Kapo explored and highlight the cultural significance of this artist.

The Kapo Gallery – which is one of only two NGJ galleries that are dedicated to single artists – was reopened on January 28 after being closed for almost a year; 21st Century Kapo will give the public an opportunity to learn more about this artist and engage in a discussion of his legacy and relevance to Jamaicans today.

21ST Century Kapo will feature a special screening of the archival film, Kapo the Artist, which first aired on BBC TWO in 1986. In it Kapo speaks about his life and work as an artist and Revivalist leader, it features commentary by Dr. David Boxer, Professor Rex Nettleford and Ambassador Dudley Thompson among others. The screening will be followed by a short, candid discussion between Dr. Clinton Hutton, Professor of Caribbean Political Philosophy, Culture and Aesthetics (University of the West Indies, Mona) and NGJ Senior Curator, O’Neil Lawrence.

Attendance to 21ST Century Kapo is free of cost and is open to the public. Visitors are being encouraged to view the newly reinstalled galleries prior to the beginning of the discussion.

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In Retrospect – Section 6: MAJOR DONATIONS

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Here is the final sectional panel from the ‘In Retrospect: 40 Years of the National Gallery of Jamaica‘ exhibition. The exhibition continues until November 15, 2014.

The National Gallery has received many donations to its collection over the years, and this is perhaps the main reason the collection has grown to its present size and quality, despite very limited resources. The present exhibition cannot feature all donations the National Gallery has received over the last forty years but highlights of three major ones can be viewed on the mezzanine, circulating area and adjoining galleries, namely:

A.D. Scott Collection: in 1990, the National Gallery received 38 major works from the most important private collection of the 1960s and 70s, namely the collection of A.D. Scott, a well-known civil engineer and art patron and the founder and operator of the Olympia International Art Centre, which opened in 1974. The collection reflects Scott’s close association with the key figures in post-Independence art in Jamaica, namely the principals of the Contemporary Jamaican Artists Association Barrington Watson, Eugene Hyde and Karl Parboosingh, but also other major figures such as Carl Abrahams, Edna Manley, Albert Huie, Osmond Watson and Christopher Gonzalez, who are all represented in this section with major examples of their work.

Aaron and Marjorie Matalon Collection: Aaron Matalon, a leading entrepreneur of the post-Independence period, was a major patron of the arts and the National Gallery’s Chairman from 1993 to 2002. In 1999, Mr Matalon and his spouse donated a collection of 218 works of art, the largest and arguable most important donation to be received by the Gallery. The Matalon Collection includes prints and other works of art from the colonial period, starting with the earliest published map of Jamaica, and modern Jamaican art. A significant portion of the Aaron and Marjorie Matalon collection is on permanent view in the historical galleries but this section features a selection of the modern works.

Guy McIntosh Donation: The most recent major donation received by the National Gallery came from art dealer and collector Guy McIntosh and consisted of 80 works of art, mainly by artists who had come to prominence in the 1980s and 90s, such as Milton George and Omari Ra.

Several other major donations remain in their usual place in the permanent galleries and we invite you to view them there. One is the Edna Manley Memorial Collection, which the result of a major campaign for donations after Edna Manley’s passing in 1989, with major donations coming from of Michael Manley, Burnett Webster, A.D. Scott, Aaron and Marjorie Matalon, David Boxer, Wallace Campbell, the Pan-Jamaican Investment Fund and the ICD Group – these works can be seen in the Edna Manley Galleries. Another major donation was the John Pringle Collection, a group of 23 paintings by Mallica ‘Kapo’ Reynolds from the estate of the John Pringle, Jamaica’s first Director of Tourism and the founder of Round Hill Hotel and Villas. This collection was received in 2011 and a selection can be seen in the Kapo Galleries.

In Retrospect: 40 Years of the NGJ – Introduction

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As has become customary for all our exhibitions, we are publishing the text panels in the In Retrospect: 40 Years of the National Gallery of Jamaica exhibition. Here is the introduction:

When the National Gallery of Jamaica (NGJ) opened its doors on November 14, 1974 it was the English-speaking Caribbean’s first national gallery, and forty years later it is the region’s oldest and largest national art museum. The recent addition of National Gallery West at the Montego Bay Cultural Centre, has further added to its reach and size. Since 1974, the NGJ has held over one hundred and thirty exhibitions and established an encyclopaedic collection of Jamaican art. Through the process of amassing and exhibiting the art of Jamaica it has done more than preserve and display Jamaica’s artistic heritage. What the NGJ has truly excelled at is telling a story (‘the’ story, the NGJ has at times claimed) of Jamaican art, crafting the raw material of artists, artworks and anecdotes into a coherent narrative that resonates with how Jamaicans see and understand themselves in the world.

When the original two-hundred and sixty-two paintings and sculptures from the Institute collection arrived in 1974, the NGJ inherited a set of artworks but not a cohesive art history and its new Director/Curator, David Boxer, who joined the staff in 1975, embarked on articulating such an art history. What we now know about Jamaican art has been the product of dedicated research and, at times, fortuitous discovery, but still the process of compiling facts and perspectives into history is a storyteller’s art. This story has been told through our exhibitions and publications, through major donations, and even through the controversies that have swirled around the NGJ from its earliest years. It is a story about personalities, about nation building and competing interests and perspectives, and about articulating who Jamaicans are as a people.

The task we have set ourselves with In Retrospect: Forty Years of the National Gallery of Jamaica is to tell the story of that story, examining with a critical eye the role the NGJ has played in establishing how Jamaican art is understood. Since our acquisitions are an integral part of that story, the exhibition consists mainly of works from our collection, supplemented with a few loans and works that are presently in acquisition. For our examination of the NGJ’s history to be manageable, decisions had to be made about what to include and what to leave out. We do not claim that this exhibition provides an exhaustive overview of the NGJ’s history—this story, too, could have been told in a number of different ways—but we have sought to represent what we consider to be key events and developments.

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Natural Histories: Colin Garland

Colin Garland - In the Beautiful Caribbean (1974), oil on canvas, Collection: NGJ

Colin Garland – In the Beautiful Caribbean (1974), oil on canvas, Collection: NGJ

One of the theoretical pillars of the Natural Histories exhibition is our interest in how artists have utilised natural history motifs to speak about the different aspects of human history and experience. Perhaps informed by his childhood fascination with nature and collecting specimens in his native Australia, Colin Garland makes eloquent use of the inherent beauty and symbolic content of natural elements found in his compositions. There are three works by Garland in this exhibition: Venus Reliquary (1977), Patoo (1994) and the thematically rich In the Beautiful Caribbean (1974).

Looking at the contents of the jewel box-like container represented in Venus Reliquary, one is inevitably reminded of the collections of species of exotic marine life amassed by pioneering natural history scientists like Sir Hans Sloane, the so-called cabinet of curiosities. Seemingly opened for the viewers’ perusal, the massively scaled work magnifies its precious contents, a variety of seashells and coral, the shells represent prosperity, the feminine as well as the spiritual aspect of life, rebirth and baptism. The coral referred to as the sea tree was a symbol of the Great Goddess and was linked to fertility, like Venus whose reliquary it is. Born of sea foam and depicted in classic works like Botticelli’s Birth of Venus (1486) journeying to land on a scallop shell, the variety of shells here could be representative of the many transatlantic journeys that transformed the Caribbean.

Colin Garland 2

Colin Garland – Venus Reliquary (1977), oil on board, Aaron & Marjorie Matalon Collection

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Natural Histories: Some Notes on Maps

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Power comes from the map and it traverses the way maps are made. The key to this internal power is thus cartographic process. By this I mean the way maps are compiled and the categories of information selected; the way they are generalized, a set of rules for the abstraction of the landscape; the way the elements in the landscape are formed into hierarchies; and the way various rhetorical styles that also reproduce power are employed to represent the landscape. To catalogue the world is to appropriate it, so that all these technical processes represent acts of control over its image which extend beyond the professed uses of cartography.

J.B. Harley (1989)

The NGJ holds a fine collection of fourteen historical maps of Jamaica and the Caribbean region, which are part of the Aaron and Marjorie Matalon Collection. One of these maps the 1786 Carte de l’Ile de la Jamaïque, which was based on an English survey and published by the Dépôt de la Marine in France, a publisher of nautical maps, is currently featured in the Natural Histories exhibition. Several others, including the earliest known, 1528 map of Jamaica by the Venetian Benedetto Bordone, can be viewed in our permanent galleries, where they invite interesting ideological and aesthetic comparisons with the topographical art of the colonial period, the estate and city views. While not usually intended as “art” and more obviously significant as historical documents, the historical maps in our collection possess a peculiar visual poetry, as diagrammatic representations of a changing vision of the world, and in this case, of the island of Jamaica.

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Remembering Seya Parboosingh (1925-2010)

Seya Parboosingh - Sharing at the Table (1999), Aaron and Marjorie Matalon Collection, NGJ

The NGJ deeply regrets the passing of Seya Parboosingh on Friday, August 13. This is our tribute to Seya.

The painter and poet Seya Parboosingh, née Samila Joseph, was born in 1925, in Allentown, Pennsylvania. She was of Lebanese descent. She attended the University of Iowa, where she concentrated on creative writing. Seya met and married Jamaican artist Karl Parboosingh in New York in 1957 and began to paint under his direction. The couple settled in Jamaica in 1958 and that year they had their first joint exhibition at the Kingston and St. Andrew Parish Library. Seya spent most of her active life in Jamaica and was a well-recognized member of the Jamaican artistic community. She received the Institute of Jamaica’s Bronze Musgrave Medal for art in 1988. Continue reading