Jamaica Biennial 2017 – Juried Artists: Leasho Johnson

From our Jamaica Biennial 2017 archives:

Leasho Johnson was born in St James, Jamaica, in 1984. He attended the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, where he obtained a BFA in Visual Communication in 2009. He is a founding member of the Dirty Crayons collective, which held local group exhibitions in 2012 and 2013. Johnson’s other exhibitions include Young Talent V (2010, National Gallery of Jamaica); Jamaican Pulse: Art and Politics from Jamaica and the Diaspora (2016, Bristol, United Kingdom); and the National Gallery of Jamaica’s Biennials since 2010. He has also participated in a number of artist residencies. In 2016, he participated in an artists’ residency at Bluecoat, a contemporary arts centre in Liverpool, United Kingdom, and he was awarded a residency at Residency Unlimited in New York City by the Davidoff Art Initiative. Johnson works in various media to explore the tensions and contestations in Jamaican culture and society, particularly in dancehall and its associated tropes. Leasho Johnson resides in Kingston, Jamaica. His contribution to the Jamaica Biennial 2017 was shown at Devon House.

Website: leasho.com

Jamaica Biennial 2017 – Juried Artists: Deborah Anzinger

This is the first of what will be our final series of posts on the Jamaica Biennial 2017, on the juried artists in the exhibition. The juried section of the 2017 Biennial was selected by two international judges, Amanda Coulson (Bahamas) and Christopher Cozier (Trinidad and Tobago), and two local judges and members of the NGJ Board, Susanne Fredricks and Omari Ra. Deborah Anzinger had submitted a site-specific installation proposal for the Devon House ballroom, which was selected.

Deborah Anzinger was born in St Andrew, Jamaica. She attended the Rush University Medical Center, where she obtained a PhD in Immunology and Microbiology, and she is self-taught as a painter and multi-media artist. Her recent exhibitions include the Jamaica Biennial 2014 at the National Gallery of Jamaica, and Double Dutch: Heino Schmid + Deborah Anzinger (2016) at the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas. Anzinger is the Executive Director of New Local Space Ltd. (NLS), a non-profit visual art initiative in Kingston. She is a regular participant in international art events, such as Tilting Axis in 2015 and 2016, in Barbados and Miami respectively, and recently completed a residency at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture (2016). Her current body of work tests “the limits of understanding individual existence and experience as hybrid, indeterminate and magical, told from an unknowable inner world.” She is based in St Andrew, Jamaica.

Website: www.deborahanzinger.com

 

Jamaica Biennial 2017 – Invited Artists: Jasmine Thomas-Girvan

Jasmine Thomas-Girvan -Parallel Realities, Dwelling I’m The Heartland of My People (2016), installation (detail)

Jasmine Thomas-Girvan was the recipient of the Aaron Matalon Award in the recently closed Jamaica Biennial 2017. Her two installations were on view at Devon House.

Jasmine Thomas-Girvan was born in 1961, in St Andrew, Jamaica. Thomas-Girvan attended the Parsons School of Design in New York, where she received a BFA in Jewellery and Textile Design. While she is still best known as a jeweller, Jasmine’s recent work has moved into the realm of larger mixed media sculpture and installations that evoke poetically the epic histories of the Caribbean. Thomas-Girvan has exhibited in the USA, Jamaica, Trinidad, Venezuela and Mexico. Her awards include the Tiffany Award for Excellence at Parsons, the Prime Minister of Jamaica’s Certificate of Recognition, the Commonwealth Foundation Arts award in 1996, the Aaron Matalon Award for her contribution to the NGJ’s 2012 National Biennial, and the 2014 Silver Musgrave Medal of the Institute of Jamaica. Thomas-Girvan lives in Maraval, Trinidad.

 

Jasmine Thomas-Girvan – The Real Princess (2016), installation (detail)

Jamaica Biennial 2017 – Invited Artists: Laura Facey

Laura Facey – Ceiba (2016)

Laura Facey has two works in the Jamaica Biennal 2017: one, Ceiba, is on view at the National Gallery of Jamaica in downtown Kingston; the other, Bumpy Top Desk and Mirror, can be seen at Devon House. The Biennial continues at all locations until May 28.

Laura Facey was born in 1954, in Kingston, Jamaica. She attended the Jamaica School of Art where she attained a Diploma in Sculpture, 1975. She also attended the West Surrey College of Art and Design in England and the Rhode Island School of Design, USA. Facey is best known as a sculptor but also works in other media, such as drawing, painting and printmaking. In recent times, she turned her attention to large meditative pieces that explore the symbolic and cultural potential of natural wood forms and human tools and instruments. She has exhibited extensively locally and internationally. Her work as been featured in major publications such as the Small Axe journal and her many commissions include the famed Redemption Song (2003) monument in Emancipation Park, Kingston. Her awards include the Silver Musgrave Medal (2006) and the Aaron Matalon Award for her entry in the 2010 National Biennial. In 2014, she was conferred with the Order of Distinction (Commander Class) by the Government of Jamaica. Facey lives in St Ann, Jamaica.

Website: laurafacey.com

 

Laura Facey – Bumpy Top Desk and Mirror (2016)

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 – Bulletin 5: The Biennial @ Devon House

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Deborah Anzinger – A Piercing Void Where We Meet (2017, digital study)

The 2014 edition of the National Gallery of Jamaica’s Jamaica Biennial was shown at multiple venues—a first for this exhibition in Jamaica—and this included Devon House, the original home of the National Gallery and one of Kingston’s main heritage sites. Devon House was included as part of the National Gallery’s fortieth anniversary celebrations, as a home-coming of sorts, but also in response to the Devon House Management’s invitation to organize regular joint exhibitions.

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Laura Facey – Bumpy Top Desk and Mirror (2016)

The Jamaica Biennial 2014 at Devon House featured work by Laura Facey, Ebony G. Patterson (who won the Biennial’s Aaron Matalon Award that year), Greg Bailey, Cosmo Whyte, James Cooper, and Oneika Russell, and was one of the most popular and critically acclaimed parts of the exhibition. The approach taken was for the works selected to be installed the Devon House mansion interior, alongside or in replacement the regular furniture and art works, and, in the case of Laura Facey, also in the formal gardens in front of the house. The result was a rich dialogue between the history and context of the house—which was built and owned by Jamaica’s first black millionaire, George Stiebel, in 1881—and the issues raised in the art works, such as the historical and contemporary dynamics of race and class, the politics of visibility and invisibility in the face of social violence, and our relationship to the natural environment.

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Sharon Norwood – Root of the Matter XI (2016)

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