David Miller Snr. - Talisman (c1940), Collection: National Gallery of Jamaica, Aaron and Marjorie Matalon Collection
As we continue the work of reinstalling our permanent exhibitions, we have recently reopened our Early Intuitives gallery, as the first gallery of the modern Jamaican art exhibition to be completed. This gallery features the work of three artists, John Dunkley, David Miller Snr. and David Miller Jnr. We have already presented a post on John Dunkley and now present one on two the Millers who were, like Dunkley, based in downtown Kingston, where they lived and worked at 8 Bray Street.
David Miller Snr. began his career in the early years of the twentieth century as a carver of curios for the tourist trade. His earliest known works are fully within the late nineteenth century tradition of “coconut shell carving” where decorative floral motifs were etched into the hard shell of the coconut which had been fashioned into a lidded container. During the early twenties he was carving curios in wood; these were principally “negro heads” and a variety of animals. Continue reading
Inside the NGJ entrance lobby
We could not let the year come to a close without acknowledging that 2009 marks the 35th anniversary of the NGJ. This post is based on a press release we have sent out to mark the occasion and provides an overview of the NGJ’s key achievements and activities.
The National Gallery of Jamaica was established in 1974, as the first national art gallery in the Anglophone Caribbean. National galleries have since been established in Guyana, the Bahamas, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands and soon also in Barbados but within the Caribbean region, the National Gallery of Jamaica is second only to the art museums of Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic in terms of the size of its facilities and collection and the scope of its operations.
Kapo at his Revival Yard, surrounded by several sculptures from the Larry Wirth Collection, c1983 - Photo: Deryck Roberts
On Tuesday, November 17, the NGJ will open an exhibition of work by Mallica “Kapo” Reynolds from its permanent collection, under the title “Selections from the Kapo Collection”. This exhibition temporarily replaces what used to be known as the Larry Wirth Gallery of Kapo’s work, which is currently closed for refurbishing and will reopen as the Kapo Galleries in early 2011, as was explained in the previous post. Below is a short biographic tribute Kapo, written by the NGJ’s Chief Curator, David Boxer, and starting with an excerpt from an autobiographic account by Kapo from the NGJ archives.
“I was born 1911 the 10th day of February in Byndloss, St. Catherine. My father’s name was David Reynolds, my mother’s name before marriage was Rebecca Morgan. My father married her when I was nine years old. At the age of 12, I received the Spirit of Conversion. I was then reading in Fifth Standard. At the age of 16 I left school; I was not bad at reading. I did not love drawing. Drawing days I used to prefer to go and work in the garden. Before the death of all my sisters and brothers, we all used to play together, go to Church and school. I can remember as far back as my creeping days, and forty years ago when I started as a self-taught artist, scraping on a stone with homemade tools, never having seen before a piece of sculpture in any medium. Then I started working steadfastly without any instruction. Happily for me guiding lights appeared in my life – a number of prominent men who took interest in my work and encouraged me.” — Kapo
Mallica "Kapo" Reynolds, Be Still, 1970, Larry Wirth Collection, NGJ
This is the first of two posts on Mallica “Kapo” Reynolds. In this segment, we focus on Kapo’s work in the collections of the NGJ. The second post will focus on his biography.
In 1974, when the National Gallery of Jamaica was established and the collections of modern Jamaican art transferred from the Institute of Jamaica, Kapo in terms of numbers was one of the better represented artists. There were five sculptures and seven paintings but the quality was uneven and there had been little attempt at exploring the wide range of Kapo’s iconography, his subject matter. While the fledgling National Gallery went on to acquire two further paintings directly from the artist – the large Orange Paradise and the superb Silent Night, Kapo’s unique treatment of the traditional Christmas nativity scene – it was clear that the very best Kapos of the previous decades resided in private collections. In Jamaica none could rival the collection deposited in the rooms and public spaces of the Stony Hill Hotel, domain of the inveterate Kapo collector, Larry Wirth.