Jamaica Biennial 2017 – Guide to the Devon House Interventions

We present additional information on the Jamaica Biennial 2017 exhibition at Devon House. This document will also be available as a free handout at Devon House. Opening hours there are Mo-Fri 9:30 to 4:30 and on the last Sundays of the month from 11 to 4. Admission rates apply. All Jamaica Biennial exhibitions continue until May 28.

Introduction

As was first done in 2014, the Jamaica Biennial 2017 is shown at more than one location. In addition to the National Gallery itself, where the main exhibition is held, parts of the exhibition are shown at Devon House, which was the National Gallery’s original home in 1974, and at National Gallery West in Montego Bay.

For Devon House, we selected five interventions by artists whose work resonates with the history and context of Devon House, particularly its dual connection to Jamaica’s plantation heritage and to social change, as the great house was built in 1881 by Jamaica’s first black millionaire. The selected work is by Andrea Chung, Laura Facey, Jasmine Thomas-Girvan, Sharon Norwood, Deborah Anzinger and Leasho Johnson. All are displayed in the Devon House interior. Some of these interventions are immediately and provocatively visible, while the others are more subtle and may at first be mistaken as being part of the original furnishings. This makes the process of discovery and engagement involved in viewing the Jamaica Biennial 2016 exhibition at Devon House all the more exciting.

Leasho Johnson, In-a-the-Middle

Location: The Palm Hall

In-a-the-Middle is a mixed-media sculptural floor piece that parodies a dancehall party, or more specifically, a “daggering session.” It is comprised of locally made metal ‘dutch’ pots, cast from scrap metal, fluorescent red paint with papier mâchè and ceramic castings of speakers and legs. The title is a derivative of a dancehall song, Inna The Middle performed by ZJ Liquid, which in the local context is referred to as a “gyal song” – that is, a song that speaks mainly to female party-goers. The “dutch” pot in Jamaican culture is a multi-purpose item and is commonly found in most Jamaican homes.

In-a-the-Middle explores female objectification and the male gaze within dancehall culture, compared with a perspective of the woman as nourishment giver, bread winner and home maker, symbolized in part by the use of the “dutch pot.” He states, “I was trying to describe a kind of negative space that is misogynistic [and] that surrounds a female described space… women becoming the weak default of a culture that puts its men on the podium of social ideals”.

(Photo: Randy Richards)

Jasmine Thomas-Girvan, The Table (Parallel Realities Dwelling in the Heartland of My People)

Location: The Dining Room

Awarded the Aaron Matalon Award

The Table (Parallel Realities Dwelling in the Heartland of My People) presents an account of the social, historical and cultural realities of slavery, using various materials and objects. It is set up with a sharp juxtaposition between the indigenous world of Nature, Veve and Taino, against that of Empire with all its assumptions of beauty and civilized behaviour. The Tea Table is laid with fineries like crystal, silverware and China. It lays bare notions of civility in harmony with plunder, murder, rape and genocide, as in the case of the Parsley Massacre in the Dominican Republic in 1937 with its dismembered figures and pools of blood. Historically, the establishment of this Euro-centric status quo has been challenged. This is symbolized in the use of the ‘abeng’, a symbol of subversion by the Maroons as a counter narrative force which disrupts and displaces the genteel setting, celebrating the human capacity for resilience and survival.”

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Jamaica Biennial 2017 – Special Projects: Andrea Chung

 

Throughout the run of the Jamaica Biennial 2017, which continues until May 28, we will be posting short features on the participating artists. This one is the last on the special projects by international invitees, with Andrea Chung as its subject. Andrea Chung’s installation, titled Pure, is on view at Devon House. She is one of the winners of the 2017 Dawn Scott Memorial Award.

Andrea Chung (1978) is an American artist of Jamaican and Trinidadian parentage, who was born in Newark, New Jersey, and currently lives and works in San Diego, California, USA. She holds a BFA in Illustration from the Parsons School of Design, NYC (2000) and an MFA from Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), Baltimore, Maryland (2008). In her words, “my work examines cultures created under the influence of colonial and post-colonial regimes…I mine foodstuffs, recipes and archival materials such as photographs and tourist publications, in order to reconstruct and create a new series of narratives, which I juxtapose against the stories told by the colony to sell romantic notions about nature and labor.” Chung’s work is strongly focused on process and materials, such as sugar and soap, both of which resonate with the narratives she unravels and reconstructs. Her contribution to the Jamaica Biennial 2017, the mixed media installation Pure, is part of the body of work that is based on the research she has conducted on traditional midwifery in Jamaica.

Website: andreachungart.com

Jamaica Biennial 2017 – The Awards

The Jamaica Biennial is one of the big highlights of Jamaica’s cultural calendar, and also a very important one, not only for the local visual arts community but also for the art world of the broader Caribbean region. In recent years, this ambitious, high-profile exhibition has become more international in character, attracting participating artists from the region and beyond. It is fast earning a significant place on the international art world’s map of must-see events.

The Jamaica Biennial 2017 opened last weekend, to record crowds, at its three locations, starting with National Gallery West on February 24 and Devon House on February 25 and culminating with the main opening event at the National Gallery of Jamaica on the Kingston Waterfront on February 26. The Biennial presently attracts two awards, the Aaron Matalon Award and the Dawn Scott Memorial Award and both were announced and presented at the National Gallery on February 26.

The Aaron Matalon Award, which was inaugurated in 2002, is the National Gallery’s award to the artist who made the most outstanding contribution to the Biennial. The award is named in honour of the National Gallery’s past chairman and benefactor, the Hon. Aaron Matalon, O.J. and had, prior to 2017, been granted to Omari Ra, Renee Cox, Norma Rodney Harrack, Phillip Thomas, Laura Facey, Jasmine Thomas-Girvan and Ebony G. Patterson. The award is selected by a committee that consists of members of the National Gallery’s Exhibition and Acquisition Committee. The award consists of a uniquely crafted medal, designed and produced by master jeweller Carol Campbell, and a $ 100,000 cash award. The medal design is customarily based on an iconic work from the National Gallery’s collection and this year’s design was based on the famous Taino Pelican zemi in the historical galleries.

The 2017 Aaron Matalon Award was granted to Jasmine Thomas-Girvan, who had also received the award in 2012 and thus receives this award for the second time – a first in the award’s history. She received the award for her two stunning installations at Devon House: Parallel Realities, Dwelling In The Heartland of My People, in the Devon House dining room, and The Real Princess, which can be seen in the sewing room. Both works comment, with exquisite detail and visual poetry, on the epic histories of the Caribbean and its people, and resonate perfectly with the historical and social significance of the Devon House mansion. Devon House was built in 1881 by George Stiebel, Jamaica’s first black millionaire, as a suburban great house, and today operates as a very popular heritage and recreational site in the city of Kingston.

The Dawn Scott Memorial Award was created and presented by the New York-based art critic Edward M. Gómez and honours the legacy and enduring influence of Alison Dawn Scott (1951-2010), one of Jamaica’s most original artists of the recent past, who was known for her innovative work in drawing and architectural design, as well as in the use of complex fabric-dyeing techniques to create vivid portraits and landscapes representing Jamaican life. The award is given to artists with works on view in the Jamaica Biennial whose art and ideas reflect the artistic values and principles of the late Dawn Scott. The Dawn Scott Memorial Award comes with a cash prize in the amount of U.S.$700, funded by Mr Gomez and Dawn Scott’s daughter, Tsehai “Spoogie” Scott, a Kingston-based, film-production specialist. The inaugural Dawn Scott Memorial Award in 2014 was presented to Camille Chedda and Kimani Beckford.

Alica Brown

Alica Brown – Exchange (2016), painting

For the 2017 award, Gómez split the award among three deserving artist winners: the Jamaican painters Greg Bailey, for his painting Colonial Legacies, and Alicia Brown, for her painting Exchange; as well as the American mixed-media artist Andrea Chung, for her mixed media installation Pure. Chung, who is of Jamaican and Trinidadian ancestry and lives in San Diego, California, USA, is one of the international artists who was invited to contribute a special project. The work of Bailey and Brown can be seen at the National Gallery of Jamaica, while Chung’s work can be seen at Devon House, in the adult bedroom and bathroom.

Greg Bailey - Colonial Legacies (2016), painting

Greg Bailey – Colonial Legacies (2016), painting

Gómez had the following to say about the Biennial submissions of the joint awardees: “With fine technical skill, including a strong sense of composition and superb draughtsmanship, Greg Bailey creates psychologically probing portraits of contemporary figures – usually young, urban, Jamaican men – that make us wonder: What’s on the minds of these subjects? What motivates them? When it comes to the issue of identity, just who do they think they are? By extension, Bailey’s portraits offer a reflected image of a broader society in which some of us might not always know what it is that we are – or should be – striving for, and how chasing certain kinds of goals might shape who we are or what we may become….Marked by excellent draughtsmanship and a skillful use of her materials, Alicia Brown’s Exchange, a head-on portrait of a country man, seen standing out in front of a farm field, is rich in detail. It offers an image of its subject that is as penetrating in its precision as it is compelling, poetic and empathetic in its character and aura….In Pure, Andrea Chung uses handmade, coloured soap to mould vividly accurate sculptures of the outwardly extended, beseeching, comfort-offering hands of elderly women. In fact, they are the hands of actual Jamaican midwives, whose skillful, compassionate intervention at the very start of a new life’s journey represent a first point of contact — physical and spiritual — between members of the human family.”

The National Gallery of Jamaica congratulates and salutes the winners of the 2017 Aaron Matalon and Dawn Scott Memorial awards, and extends its commendations to all artists who are participating in the Jamaica Biennial 2017, which is a very competitive exhibition with many strong and unique submissions. The Biennial continues at all three locations until May 28.

The 2014 Aaron Matalon and Dawn Scott Memorial Awards Are Announced

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The National Gallery of Jamaica extends heartiest congratulations to Ebony G. Patterson, the winner of the 2014 Aaron Matalon Award, and Camille Chedda and Kimani Beckford, the co-winners of the inaugural Dawn Scott Memorial Award. Both awards are attached to the Jamaica Biennial 2014 exhibition, which opened with a week of events from December 7 to 14 and continues until March 15, 2015 at the National Gallery of Jamaica and Devon House in Kingston and at National Gallery West in Montego Bay. The awards were announced at the Biennial’s main opening reception at the National Gallery on Sunday, December 14.

The Aaron Matalon Award is granted to the artist who, in the opinion of the combined Exhibitions and Acquisitions committees of the National Gallery made the most outstanding contribution to the Biennial. The award is named after the National Gallery’s late Chairman and benefactor, the Hon. Aaron Matalon, OJ. Awardees receive a unique medal, hand-crafted by the noted jeweller Carol Campbell, and a monetary award. Previous awardees include Phillip Thomas, Norma Rodney Harrack, Renee Cox, Omari Ra and Jasmine Thomas-Girvan.

The 2014 Aaron Matalon Awardee Ebony G. Patterson is a graduate of the Edna Manley College (BFA) and the Sam Fox College of Design and Visual Art at Washington University in St Louis (MFA). She is presently an Associate Professor in the Fine Arts department of the University of Kentucky. Patterson is one of the most outstanding and internationally acclaimed artists to emerge in Jamaica in the last decade and she has received several awards, including the 2011 Rex Nettleford Fellowship in Cultural Studies and the 2012 Bronze Musgrave Medal. Ebony G. Patterson’s is a uniquely Caribbean aesthetic that melds elements of “high” and “low” art and draws from carnival costuming, Haitian sequined flags, and above all the “bling” of Jamaican Dancehall fashion. Her recent work explores the politics of visibility and invisibility, with regards to the cultural and social implications of violence and death in Jamaican society. Her Biennial projects are exhibited at Devon House and consist of two floor-based tapestry installations from the Dead Treez series, titled Lillies, Carnations and Rozebuds and Trunk Stump and Dominoes, that are embellished with needlework, crochet, glitter, and various objects, including clothing, shoes and children’s toys.

The new Dawn Scott Memorial Award was initiated by the internationally renowned art critic Edward M. Gomez in honour of his late friend, the Jamaican artist Allison Dawn Scott. Dawn Scott is best known for her ground-breaking and highly influential mixed media installation A Cultural Object (1985, Collection: National Gallery) but she also produced figurative batik paintings that depict Jamaican life and people with a unique blend of poetry and realism. She also worked as an interior designer who produced innovative, culturally grounded shop designs and architectural detailing. The awardee is personally selected by Mr Gomez and is a granted to an emerging artist in the Biennial who represents the artistically innovative, socially committed spirit of Dawn Scott. The Dawn Scott Memorial Award also involves a monetary grant. Given the very competitive nature of 2014 Biennial, it comes as no surprise that the Dawn Scott Memorial Award was tied between two artists, Kimani Beckford and Camille Chedda, and Edward Gomez consequently decided to split the award between the two. Continue reading

NEW DAWN SCOTT MEMORIAL AWARD TO BE GIVEN TO AN ARTIST PARTICIPATING IN THE JAMAICA BIENNIAL 2014

Dawn Scott and Edward M. Gómez in 2003

Dawn Scott and Edward M. Gómez in 2003

The National Gallery of Jamaica is pleased to announce the creation of the Dawn Scott Memorial Award, which will be presented to one artist participating in its Jamaica Biennial 2014 exhibition, which will be on public view from December 7, 2014 to March 15, 2015.

The Dawn Scott Memorial Award, which involves a monetary prize of US$500, is a private initiative sponsored by the New York-based, internationally known art critic and art historian Edward M. Gómez in memory and honour of his close friend and colleague, the late Jamaican artist Alison Dawn Scott (1951-2010). Gómez himself will examine the artworks on view in the Jamaica Biennial 2014 and from them choose one work and its creator to honour with the new award. The award will be announced during the Biennial’s main opening reception on Sunday, December 14 and Edward M. Gómez will personally present the award.

Over the years, Gómez, who served in the cultural section of the Embassy of the United States in Kingston in the 1980s, has developed and maintained close personal and professional ties to Jamaica and its arts community. He has written and published numerous articles and essays about Jamaican artists and their works, including texts about the legendary Intuitives, which helped introduce their achievements to broad, international audiences. In 2006, he delivered opening remarks at the National Gallery of Jamaica’s Intuitives III exhibition and wrote an essay for its accompanying catalogue.

Detail of Dawn Scott - A Cultural Object (1985), Collection: NGJ - this work is currently in restoration and will reopen in early 2015

Detail of Dawn Scott – A Cultural Object (1985), Collection: NGJ

Gómez says, “The Dawn Scott Memorial Award will recognize the creativity and originality of the work of one artist taking part in the Jamaica Biennial 2014. In keeping with the artistic and philosophical principles that distinguished Dawn Scott’s thinking, teaching, art-making and activism, in selecting a winner of the award, I will be looking for proficiency and innovation in the artist’s handling of his or her materials, fresh ideas about the expressive power of art, and a sense of courage in the way the artist addresses his or her subject matter.”

Currently the senior editor of Raw Vision, the London-based, international magazine about outsider art and the work of self-taught artists, Gómez has written for the New York Times, the Japan Times (Tokyo), Reforma (Mexico City), Fahrenheit (Mexico) and many publications in the U.S., including, among others, Art & Antiques, Art in America, ARTnews, Art + Auction, Metropolis, Hyperallergic, Salon,com, Folk Art and the San Francisco Chronicle/S.F. Gate. He is the author or co-author of numerous books and exhibition catalogues, including Dictionnaire de la civilisation japonaise (Hazan Éditions, 1998), Yes: Yoko Ono (Abrams, 2000), The Art of Adolf Wölfli: St. Adolf-Giant-Creation (American Folk Art Museum/Princeton University Press, 2003), Hans Krüsi (Iconofolio/Outsiders, 2006) and La Wilson: Five Decades (John Davis Gallery, 2013).

In her own work, Scott was known for her fine craftsmanship and draughtsmanship. Using the wax-resist batik process on fabric, she produced emblematic portraits and scenes of Jamaican rural and urban life. In 1985, Scott created one of Jamaican contemporary art’s most impactful, mixed-media installation works, A Cultural Object, which the NGJ later acquired. A kind of visual art response to some of the same themes that had been percolating in Jamaican popular music and poetry, this bold work, which influenced a later generation of local artists, literally recreates a patch of an inner-city neighbourhood. It addresses some of contemporary Jamaican and Caribbean society’s most enduring social and economic challenges.

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