Explorations IV: Masculinities – Gallery 1: Sexual Bodies – Beyond the Normative

Patterson, Ebony - Bush Cockerels

Ebony G. Patterson – The Observation (Bush Cockerel) – A Fictitious History (2012), still from video installation

Here is the second of our posts of the text panels in the Explorations IV: Masculinities exhibition. This section of the exhibition is rated PG 16.

Artistic representations of sexuality have more commonly focused on the female body but from time to time the tables are turned and the male body becomes the sexual object. In Jamaica, the sexualized representation of the male body is a taboo subject that reflects reflect deep-rooted insecurities about gender roles and sexuality although, as some of the works in this gallery illustrate, there are signs of change and contestation.

Edna Manley - Man with Wounded bird(rgb)

Edna Manley – Man with Wounded Bird (c1934), Collection: NGJ

This gallery includes a number of art works in which the male body is represented in sexual or erotic terms. A few of these works are more actively sexualized while others merely focus on the beauty and implied erotic potential of the male body. Some also speak to the tensions in male-female relationships: Milton George’s Pages from My Diary (1983), for instance, satirizes assumptions about male sexual dominance, as it places a diminutive male figure – the artist himself – at the mercy of the female objects of his desire. Satire is also evident in Leasho Johnson’s work, which provides a critical perspective on societal norms about sexuality and gender. Continue reading

Explorations IV: Masculinities: Introduction

As is customary, we will be posting the text panels we have produced for the Masculinities exhibition, starting with this general introduction.

Masculinities is the fourth in the National Gallery’s Explorations series, which has thus far featured Natural Histories (2013), Religion and Spirituality (2013-14) and, most recently, Seven Women Artists (2015). The Explorations series, which is open-ended by design, examines big themes and issues in the history of art and culture in Jamaica and invites our audiences to be part of that process, by asking questions and by encouraging debate rather than to prescribe answers. Explorations IV explores how masculinities – and the use of the plural is deliberate – have been represented in Jamaican art and visual culture, from the Plantation era to the present. In doing so, the exhibition also explores how masculine roles and identities, and the perceptions that surround them, have evolved in the Jamaican context.

The biological facts of maleness may seem straightforward (although these are in fact quite complicated) but sociologists have argued that the gender status of masculinity is precarious, since “manhood is widely viewed as a status that is elusive (it must be earned) and tenuous (it must be demonstrated repeatedly through actions)” (Bosson and Vandello 2011). It is now widely understood that conceptions of masculinity are socially negotiated and performative, as are gender roles and definitions generally, and the feminist philosopher Judith Butler has argued: “gender is a kind of imitation for which there is no original; in fact, it is a kind of imitation that produces the very notion of the original as an effect and consequence of the imitation itself.” Conceptions of masculinity vary significantly over time, place and socio-cultural context, in ways that defy fixed definitions and simplistic male-female binaries. Even what is considered as normative masculinity in a particular context has far more complexity than is usually acknowledged. Masculinity is thus subject to variable and competing interpretations and in the postcolonial Caribbean these contrary dynamics are amplified by the histories of race and class.

The Masculinities exhibition explores how these issues are (at times inadvertently) expressed and represented in Jamaican art, in works of art that have iconic status but also in others that are less known. The exhibition is organized over six galleries and into eight overlapping themes: “Sexual Bodies”; “Beyond the Normative”; “Power and Status”; “The Male Body as Icon”; “Precarious Masculinities”; “The Athlete and the Worker”; “Style and Fashion”; and “Fathers, Brothers and Sons.” Since the exhibition explores how masculinities are represented in Jamaican art, its main focus is on black masculinities and, therefore, the contentions that surround the black male body, whether it is as a site of resistance, empowerment, victimization or exploitation, or a combination thereof. The exhibition is thus as much about race as it is about gender. Continue reading

“Explorations IV: Masculinities” Opens at the National Gallery on December 6

The Explorations IV: Masculinities exhibition will open at the National Gallery of Jamaica on Sunday, December 6, 2015. The exhibition is the fourth edition of the National Gallery’s critically acclaimed Explorations series, which examines major themes and issues in Jamaican art and culture. The guest speaker at the December 6 opening will be Michael Bucknor, Senior Lecturer, Public Orator and Head of the Department of Literatures in English at the University of the West Indies, Mona. Dr Bucknor has written extensively on gender issues in the arts and has also contributed an essay to the exhibition catalogue. Explorations IV: Masculinities will be on view at the National Gallery until March 5, 2016.

Explorations IV: Masculinities explores how masculinities – and the use of the plural is deliberate – have been represented in Jamaican art and visual culture. In doing so, the exhibition also explores how various masculine roles and identities, and the perceptions that surround them, have evolved in the Jamaican context. Organized thematically, the exhibition includes work by artists from the eighteenth century to the present, such as Philip Wickstead, Josiah Wedgwood, Isaac Mendes Belisario, Edna Manley, Alvin Marriott, Albert Huie, Osmond Watson, Barrington Watson, Colin Garland, Rose Murray, Mallica “Kapo” Reynolds, Everald Brown, Omari Ra, Phillip Thomas, Ebony G. Patterson, Leasho Johnson, Wade Rhoden, Peter Dean Rickards, Cosmo Whyte, and Vermon “Howie” Grant. Masculinities is designed to encourage productive and respectful debate on what is, after all, a subject area of major social and cultural urgency in contemporary Jamaica.

At the opening function on Sunday, December 6, doors will be open from 11 am to 4 pm and the opening function will start at 1:30 pm. DJ Biko will provide music. Admission will be free on that day but donations are gratefully accepted. The gift and coffee shop will be open for business, and the gift shop is fully stocked for the Holiday season, with a variety of art reproductions and cards, craft and gift items, and books, including the Explorations IV: Masculinities catalogue. Proceeds from the gift and coffee shop and donations received help to fund programmes and projects such as the Masculinities exhibition.

Masculinities - Invitation


Young Talent 2015: Cosmo Whyte

Cosmo Whyte - YOU Know WE Can't Swim Right? (2015)

Cosmo Whyte – YOU Know WE Can’t Swim Right? (2015)

Here is the last of our short posts on the artists in the Young Talent 2015 exhibition, which opens today, Sunday, August 30. Doors will be open from 11 am to 4 pm. The function starts at 1:30 pm, and will feature a short documentary on the participating artists and a musical performance by Jah9. The exhibition continues until November 14.

Cosmo Whyte was born in St Andrew, Jamaica in 1982. He attended Bennington College in Vermont where he obtained his BFA, Maryland Institute College of Art for a Post-Baccalaureate Certificate and he graduated first in his class from the University of Michigan for his MFA. Cosmo Whyte is currently a professor at Morehouse College in Atlanta.

Cosmo Whyte - Town Crier (2015)

Cosmo Whyte – Town Crier (2015)

Artist’s Statement

“Terra Incognita…The New World is the third term—the primal scene—where the fateful/fatal encounter was staged between Africa and the West…. stands for the endless ways which Caribbean people have been destined to migrate.” (Stuart Hall, Cultural Identity and Diaspora, 1994)

My current body of work explores postcolonial identity through the lens of tourism, diaspora, globalization and migration. Through the process of installations of drawings, photographs and sculpture, I argue for the re-examination of identity as not fixed, but liquid and in a constant state of flux. Taken in its entirety, my work is interested in probing the following question: How has identity, sense of placelessness, or presence been altered by dislocation?

Cosmo Whyte - The Ginal

Cosmo Whyte – The Ginal

The work in Young Talent 2015 argues that the modern condition is migratory and as vast numbers of people continue to cross borders (sometimes at great loss) the question of citizenship and home becomes increasingly complicated. I have approached this show as a testing ground to explore parallels that exist between the mass migration of West and East African through the Mediterranean into Europe and Haitians being forced to leave Dominican Republic. None of the work on display is didactic but it rather looks on the black body as it is situated in a specific historical context when it comes to borders, migration, death by water, and survival.

Cosmo Whyte - Punch Drunk Love (2015)

Cosmo Whyte – Punch Drunk Love (2015)

Young Talent 2015: Avagay Osborne

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Avagay Osborne – Untitled (2015)

Here is another of our short posts on the artists in the Young Talent 2015 exhibition, which opens tomorrow, Sunday, August 30:

Avagay Osborne was born in 1990 in Manchester, Jamaica. She is a recent graduate of the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, where she attained a BFA in Painting. She lives in Manchester, Jamaica.

Avagay Osborne - "Sorry"  (2015)

Avagay Osborne – “Sorry” (2015)

Artist’s Statement

Self-recovery is the term applied to the process of healing, from general disturbances and trauma. Reflections on past experiences have provided a thematic substance to my work thus far. My work is a direct reflection, response and act of self-recovery from a series of personal events and near-traumatic experiences. I believe that though these experiences are personal they are also no doubt a part of overall human condition. My adolescent years were troubled and traumatic and at age 23, I went through another traumatic experience, I have endured some level of physical and emotional abuse during these periods and these traumatic experiences have influenced my works.

Avagay Osborne - Untitled (2015)

Avagay Osborne – Untitled (2015)

Young Talent 2015: Richard Nattoo

Richard Nattoo - Oblivion (2015)

Richard Nattoo – Oblivion (2015)

Here is another of our short posts on the artists in the Young Talent 2015 exhibition, which opens on Sunday, August 30:

Richard Nattoo was born 1993, in St Catherine, Jamaica. Nattoo currently attends the University of Technology in Kingston, Jamaica, where he is pursuing the Bachelors of Arts in Architectural Studies.

Richard Nattoo – Athena’s Oculus (2015)

Artist’s Statement

Exploration has always been a constant in my life, and an integral part of my art and artistic processes. I create in an attempt to capture and deconstruct the common feelings and emotions of everyday life, so that I can examine their inner workings. At its core, my work attempts to capture the feelings and emotions I experience and to translate them into the surreal spaces that we all inhabit within ourselves. The goal is to explore feelings and emotions on murky cerebral levels and to construct the tumultuous and beautiful inner world that resides within all of us. I call this inner world the Silent Echo and my exhibitions have been about exploring this rich and textured place. A variety of mediums such as pen and ink, watercolour and most recently glass have been employed. Each exhibition is a chapter of the journey deconstructed.

Richard Nattoo - Silent Intuition (2015)

Richard Nattoo – Silent Intuition (2015)