“A Critic’s Notebook” by Renowned International Art Critic Edward Gomez

Edward Gomez 4x6in-01-01

The National Gallery of Jamaica is pleased to announce that the New York-based, internationally known art critic and curator Edward M. Gómez will present “A Critic’s Notebook,” a talk about trends in contemporary art and some of the artists who are the subjects of his current research.

The talk will take place on Tuesday, July 30, 2019, at the National Gallery of Jamaica, at 12 Ocean Boulevard, Block C, in downtown Kingston. Mr. Gómez’s presentation will begin at 1:30 p.m. The event is free of charge and open to the general public. Artists, art students, art collectors, and art lovers are especially welcome to attend.

Edward M. Gómez is an arts journalist, critic, author, and curator. A senior critical writer for the arts-and-culture magazine Hyperallergic, he is also the senior editor of the outsider-art magazine Raw Vision, and a specialist in Japanese modern art and in the work of self-taught artists. Mr. Gómez, who began his career as a cultural-affairs officer at the U.S. Embassy in Kingston before going on to work as a writer and correspondent for TIME Magazine in the U.S., France, and Japan, and to serve as the editor of and a contributor to many publications, has long enjoyed a close connection to Jamaica’s vibrant arts community.

He has written about various aspects of Jamaican art history, including the work of the Jamaican Intuitives, and he is the founder of the Dawn Scott Memorial Award, which was previously given to notable artists participating in the National Gallery of Jamaica’s biennial exhibitions (the award is now associated with the museum’s Summer Exhibition). He is the author of numerous books and exhibition catalogues in the art and design fields.

In his talk, Mr. Gómez will describe certain postmodernist critical ideas that are still prevalent in the international art world today, as well as share information about his recent research and curating activities, which have focused on a diverse range of both trained and self-taught artists from different parts of the world, including Japan.

In his remarks, he will cite some of the works from the National Gallery of Jamaica’s 2019 Summer Exhibition, which will open to the public on Sunday, July 28.


New Roots: An Invitation to Dialogue

girl and magpie installation view

The Girl and the Magpie – installation view

We at the NGJ are committed to fostering critical dialogue and our exhibitions are designed to do just that. The current New Roots: 10 Emerging Artists exhibition is a perfect example and it has already elicited a variety of responses, informal and in writing – we welcome both. This morning we received the following comment from a George Blackwell to one of our posts on the exhibition:

The New Roots Exhibition at the National Gallery of Jamaica is interesting to take note of for several reasons. Firstly, ‘New Roots’, as the title suggests, betrays a desperate bid to get away from any serious discourse that foregrounds the black as the essential constituent in local identity matters. Therefore, the exhibition is insipidly curated to avoid this discussion.

Secondly, new routes are not really new. Videos, installations, animations and graffiti art have had enduring presence in Jamaican art. Nor are the directions and messages of the respective artists new. What is new, however, is the irrational extent to which the curators have gone to scrape the barrel to find people who have no skills or claims to the art making process regardless of the media or medium they choose to work with.

The short film by Saulter suffers from a lack of interesting camera angles and a powerful metaphor has been sacrificed to a gruffly overdone gabble posing as narrative. The other videos are for the most part jejune, the entertainment value and cultural schmaltz become part of the naked technological seduction, while artistic endeavor is absent.

Nile Saulter - Pillowman (2013), video still

Nile Saulter – Pillowman (2013), video still

Nor is the graffiti display new. What is new about it is that though most graffiti works display a competent level of intellectual finesse in their political charge and their artistic ambitions, in McCarthy’s case, one would have to dig deep into the dense layer of clichés to find any smidgen of such. This he compensated for by his PR teamwork and media savvy.

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Natural Histories – Theoretical Groundings

Another post on Natural Histories, written by Nicole Smythe Johnson.

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We end in earth, from earth began.
In our own entrails, genesis.
–          Derek Walcott, The Castaway (1965)

Natural History has always figured strongly in visions of Jamaica. It is in the way the plantation system and its legacy orders the people of the region; classifying them into races, classes, colours etc. It is also in the use of bucolic landscapes as pro-slavery propaganda in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Today, in much of the world, Jamaica and the Caribbean are still visualized primarily as a tourist paradise of sun and sand, rainforests, tropical birds and flowers. This exhibition looks at the ways that Jamaican artists of the past and present have engaged this recurring aspect of how the region is visioned. Whether artists are challenging, re-interpreting or celebrating Natural History discourse, the conversations these works stage show the myriad ways in which nature and the study of it figure into how we understand ourselves and our experience of the world.

The trend is not unique to Jamaica or visual art. Versions of this conversation can be found in many of the Caribbean region’s creative outputs, which makes sense given the shared history of transatlantic slavery and cultural blending. In literature, writers like St. Lucian Derek Walcott and Guyanese Wilson Harris engage similar themes. Thinkers such as Martinican Edouard Glissant and Antonio Benitez Rojo of Cuba use the region’s natural features, particularly the sea, as a means to explore cultural, historical and geopolitical features of the Caribbean. Nature also figures strongly in the work of visual artists such as Cuba’s Wifredo Lam and Puerto Rican Arnaldo Roche Rabell.

This exhibition also builds on previous exhibitions such as the Institute of Jamaica’s 2007 Materialising Slavery exhibition which featured an installation by African American artist Fred Wilson. Wilson’s  installation, An Account of a Voyage to Jamaica with the Unnatural History of That Place re-contextualised some of the Institute’s natural history and ethnographic collections to bring unexamined assumptions about power, place, privilege, and history to light. Another important reference is Susan Vogel’s 1988 exhibition Art/Artifact which sought to re-think the West’s engagement with African art by placing objects designated as art side by side with objects designated as artefacts, thereby questioning the values we assign to these categories and the places and people that create them.

EDITORIAL: An Invitation to Critical Dialogue

Jasmine Thomas-Girvan - Alchemy of Promise (2012), mixed media

Jasmine Thomas-Girvan – Alchemy of Promise (2012), mixed media

The National Biennial 2012, which closed in March, was, as Charles Campbell put it in his excellent review, a powerful and demanding exhibition that reflected the expansive growth of contemporary art in Jamaica and its Diaspora. It captured a cultural moment that is energetic, expansive and enthusiastic and viewers and commentators responded accordingly, with unprecedented enthusiasm that left us very encouraged about current directions in Jamaican art and the development of the NGJ itself.

Charles Campbell rightly cautioned, however, that the present cultural moment is also very self-congratulatory and lacks the supporting critical discourse that is needed to make the current growth spurt fully meaningful and sustainable, culturally and intellectually. The NGJ team recognizes this problem and it is in actuality part of our responsibilities to facilitate and promote critical discourse within and about the Jamaican art world, in its broadest sense. We also recognize the need to extend this thrust internally, to a more critical and self-aware engagement with what we do, and should or could be doing, as Jamaica’s national art museum.

Our present approach to curating, programming and publishing reflects this new commitment towards critical engagement and our latest exhibition, Natural Histories, which opens tomorrow April 28, is a product of this process. In presenting this exhibition, and this editorial, we want to give you greater insight into how our curatorial practice and internal critical discourses are evolving, with new approaches that will also inform the upcoming redesign of our permanent exhibitions

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