Explorations VI: Engaging Abstraction

George Rodney – Drifter (1985), Collection: NGJ

Explorations VI: Engaging Abstraction is on view from December 19, 2017 to February 25, 2018, and consists of a selection of portraits from our collection. The exhibition was curated by Assistant Curator Monique Barnett-Davidson. The Explorations series examines big themes and issues in Jamaican art.

Engaging Abstraction examines the role of abstraction in modern and contemporary art from Jamaica and also makes reference to abstraction from the Caribbean and its Diaspora. Our collection includes several hundreds of works of art that qualify as abstract, or at least as abstracted. While abstraction has been a consistent preoccupation in the local art scene since the 1960s, the visual rhetoric of abstract art nevertheless continues to challenge many Jamaican viewers, who crave art that is more literal and presents a clear narrative, often dismissing abstraction as alien to Jamaican and Caribbean culture. This exhibition therefore, seeks to add to the conversation about abstraction in the Jamaican and Caribbean context, as well as to explore its inherent contentions.

Rex Dixon – Burning Cage (1987), Collection: NGJ

The Tate Gallery offers the following definition of abstract art: “The term can be applied to art that is based on an object, figure or landscape, where forms have been simplified or schematised. It is also applied to art that uses forms, such as geometric shapes or gestural marks, which have no source at all in an external visual reality.” This definition highlights that abstract art – or abstraction, as it is more appropriately called – involves a wide spectrum of approaches, from stylized representations to pure abstraction which is concerned with form rather than content. While it is often assumed that abstraction is exclusive to Western modernism, various other cultures have produced art that can be defined as abstract. Religious Islamic art, which is characterized by prohibitions on representation, is an example. The pioneers of Western abstraction found inspiration in the stylizations of traditional African and Oceanic art. The indigenous imagery of the pre-Columbian peoples of South and Central America and the Caribbean have also been referenced by a number of our own regional artists.

Edna Manley – Beadseller (1922, Collection: NGJ)

While modernist abstraction was well-established in the European, North American–and for that matter Latin-American art by the early twentieth century—it took much longer for it to become common practice in the Jamaican art world. The thematic content of early modern art in the Caribbean region had a strong nationalistic ethos, with anti-colonial art dominating the second quarter of twentieth century in Jamaica and in most other parts of the region. This called for a figurative modernism that conveyed its political content clearly, although there were elements of abstraction in examples such as Edna Manley’s Beadseller (1922).

Aubrey Williams (Guyana/UK) – God of Corn and Plenty (1973), Collection: NGJ)

Continue reading

Advertisements

Last Sundays – December 31, 2017, ft. Nexus

PARKING INFORMATION
Ocean Boulevard, which is the normal access road to drive to the NGJ on Orange Street, will be closed on Sunday, December 31, in preparation for the New Year’s fireworks that night. UDC has kindly made complimentary parking arrangements for visitors to our Last Sundays programme in the parking garage across from the NGJ main entrance, with the understanding that those who park there will leave by 4 pm (or moved to paid parking for those who are staying for the fireworks). To access the NGJ, please proceed on Port Royal Street (or Harbour Street, if coming from the West) and turn on Orange Street, where there will be crowd control barriers. Please indicate to the security guard on duty that you are a guest of the NGJ Last Sundays programme and you will be directed to the parking garage. Feel free to call us at 922-1561 or -3 if you need any assistance.

***

The National Gallery’s final Last Sundays event for 2017 will take place on New Year’s Eve, Sunday, December 31 from 11 am to 4 pm, with the featured performance starting at 1:30 am. Visitors will have the opportunity to view the National Gallery’s current exhibitions, Explorations V: Portraits in Conversation and Explorations VI: Engaging Abstraction. The featured performance will be by the Nexus Performing Arts Company.

The Explorations exhibition series, which was launched in 2013, explores big themes and issues in Jamaican art and features mainly works from the National Gallery Collection, which are reinterpreted in these thematic contexts. Explorations V: Portraits in Conversation examines the significance and conflicted politics of artistic portraiture in the development of Jamaican art from the 18th century to the present, looking at issues such as race, class, gender, as well as the ideas about art and the artist that are reflected in the portrait. Its counterpart, Explorations VI: Engaging Abstraction, examines the at times contentious role of abstraction in modern and contemporary art from Jamaica and the Caribbean. Abstraction became an established part of the local art practice in the 1960s but is often dismissed as alien to Caribbean culture, which has a strong focus on content and iconic local subject matter. More recently, abstraction has also found new life in the age of time-based, digital media. A special feature in the Explorations VI exhibition is the Kingston staging of David Gumbs’ Xing Wang interactive video installation, which was originally shown as part of the 2017 Jamaica Biennial at National Gallery West in Montego Bay. David Gumbs is an artist from St Martin who lives and works in Martinique.

In what is now an established Holiday Season tradition at the National Gallery, the featured performance on Sunday, December 31 will be by the award-winning Nexus Performing Arts Company. The Nexus Performing Arts Company was formed in 2001 by Hugh Douse, Artistic Director, voice tutor, singer, actor, conductor, songwriter, and a former Director of Culture in Education. The group has a broad musical repertoire that draws on Gospel, Negro Spirituals, Semi-classical, Popular music including Reggae and show tunes, African and Classical music of the European and African traditions. The performance by Nexus will take place in the exhibition galleries, presented as a musical tour, with selections inspired by the Portraits in Conversation and Engaging Abstraction exhibitions.

Admission on Sunday, December 31 will be free and free guided tours will also be offered. The gift and coffee shop will be open for business and contributions to the donations box are welcomed. Revenues from our shops and donations help to fund programmes such as the Explorations exhibitions and our Last Sundays programming.

Explorations V: Portraits in Dialogue

Renee Cox – The Red Coat (2004), Collection: NGJ

Explorations V: Portraits in Dialogue is on view from December 19, 2017 to February 25, 2018, and consists of a selection of portraits from our collection. The exhibition was curated by Senior Curator O’Neil Lawrence. The Explorations series examines big themes and issues in Jamaican art.

Explorations V: Portraits in Dialogue examines the significance and oftentimes conflicted politics of artistic portraiture in the development of Jamaican art from the 18th century to the present, looking at issues such as race, class, and gender, as well as the ideas about art, representation, and the artist that are reflected in the portrait.

The Cambridge English dictionary defines a portrait as “a painting, photograph, drawing, etc. of a person or, less commonly, of a group of people,” to which we should of course add sculpture, and also notes that “a film or book that is a portrait of something describes or represents that thing in a detailed way,” as in, a portrait of life in twenty-first century Jamaica. Expanding the definition in this manner is also useful in the field of art, as it allows us to consider broader, narrative or symbolic definitions of what a portrait can be.

Pompeo Batoni – Portrait of John Blagrove (1774), Collection: NGJ

The history of portraiture is almost as long as the history of art itself. In ancient times, and well into the last millennium, portraiture was almost exclusively connected to power and status and until modern times, very few portraits of common folk survive, in part because very few were made. This is evident in portrait art from the Plantation era in Jamaica: most extant portraits are of members of the plantocracy and these portraits have all the typical traits of conventional, commissioned Western portraiture, from the standardized academic poses and idealized features to the assumed self-importance of the sitters. These are the types of portraits that often inhabit the popular imagination and have significantly influenced the ways in which many viewers approach the genre. There are few depictions of black persons from that period that qualify as portraits. One is the unattributed portrait of a West Indian Boy (c1840), and, while the depiction is sensitive, it is of note that the boy’s (or man’s) name is not documented and that he is presented as a “type” rather than as a socially empowered individual.

Unknown – Portrait of Negro Boy (c1840), Collection: NGJ

Portraiture was revolutionized and, to a great extent, democratized by the introduction of photography, as having one’s portrait made thus came within the reach of the middle classes, although the commissioning a painted or sculpted portrait remains the province of the wealthy and powerful, or is done for those who have achieved significant public status because of their contributions to society and not by accident of birth – the recently unveiled Usain Bolt statue by Basil Watson and the controversial Marcus Garvey busts by his brother Raymond Watson come to mind. The controversies that frequently surround such commissions illustrate that the politics of public portraiture are particularly high-stakes and fuelled by conflicting standards and expectations.

Continue reading

More in the Explorations Series: “Portraits in Conversation” and “Engaging Abstraction”

The National Gallery of Jamaica is pleased to present two new exhibitions – Explorations V: Portraits in Conversation and Explorations VI: Engaging Abstraction – which will be on view from December 9, 2017 to February 25, 2018. The Explorations series, which was launched in 2013, examines big themes and issues in Jamaican art, inviting conversation on these issues, and features mainly works from the National Collection.

Explorations V: Portraits in Conversation examines the significance and conflicted politics of artistic portraiture in the development of Jamaican art from the 18th century to the present, looking at issues such as race, class, gender, as well as the ideas about art and the artist that are reflected in the portrait. Examples of colonial era portraiture are contrasted with portraits and self-portraits from the Nationalist era that reflect its drive towards psychological decolonization and cultural self-representation. The exhibition also includes works by contemporary artists that illustrate how portraiture has been redefined and repositioned in response to recent social changes and cultural developments. Among the artists who are represented in this exhibition are: Alvin Marriott, Renee Cox, George Robertson, Albert Huie, Samere Tansley, Milton George, Isaac Mendes Belisario, Vera Alabaster, Berette Macaulay, Richmond Barthe, Mallica “Kapo” Reynolds, Olivia McGilchrist, Varun Baker, Robin Farqueharson, David Boxer, Pompeo Batoni, Barrington Watson, Mrs Lionel Lee, and Vermon “Howie” Grant. This exhibition is curated by Senior Curator, O’Neil Lawrence.

Explorations VI: Engaging Abstraction, on the other hand, examines the role of abstraction in modern and contemporary art from Jamaica and the Caribbean. Early modern art in the Caribbean region had a strong focus on thematic content, often with nationalist overtones, and this called for figurative modernism rather than abstraction. There was a reaction against this in the middle of the 20th century, when a number of artists began to experiment with abstraction, often challenging the nationalist premises of earlier artistic developments. More recently, abstraction has also found new life in the age of time-based, digital media. It also has a place in the popular culture, often related to belief systems such as Revival and Rastafari, which employ abstract symbols. The visual rhetoric of abstract art however continues to be challenging to many Jamaican viewers, who crave art that is more literal and presents a clear narrative, and abstraction is often dismissed as alien to Caribbean culture. This exhibition therefore also addresses the debates and contentions that have surrounded abstraction in the Jamaican and Caribbean context. It features work by artists such as Eugene Hyde, Hope Brooks, Milton Harley, Osmond Watson, Margaret Chen, Petrona Morrison, Karl Parboosingh, David Boxer, Gloria Escoffery, Seya Parboosingh, David Pinto, Fitz Harrack, Di-Andre Caprice Davis, Edna Manley, Stanford Watson, Leonard Daley, Vernon Tong, Everald Brown, and Winston Patrick. This exhibition is curated by Assistant Curator Monique Barnett-Davidson.

A special feature in the Explorations VI exhibition will be the Kingston staging of David Gumbs’ Xing Wang interactive video installation, which was originally shown as part of the 2017 Jamaica Biennial at National Gallery West in Montego Bay. David Gumbs is an artist from St Martin who lives and works in Martinique.

Several events will be held to accompany these exhibitions, including the Last Sundays programmes of December 31, 2017, January 28, 2018, and February 25, 2018. Details will be announced separately.

Spiritual Yards: Selections from the Wayne and Myrene Cox Collection Opens at National Gallery West

National Gallery West

Spiritual Yards MoBay - Invite-01

National Gallery West in Montego Bay is pleased to present Spiritual Yards, which features selected works of art and archival material from the Wayne and Myrene Cox Collection. The exhibition opens on Sunday, December 10, 2017, at 4 pm, with opening remarks by Wayne Cox. Spiritual Yards was originally shown at the National Gallery of Jamaica in Kingston and the exhibition at National Gallery West is an abridged version of the original.

Spiritual Yards explores how many of the self-taught, popular artists – or “Intuitives,” as they are now conventionally called in Jamaica – have their roots in religious and spiritual practices such as Revival and Rastafari. Several of these artists have produced or contributed to so-called “spiritual yards,” or sacred spaces that feature ritual and symbolic objects and images that are meant engage or represent the spirits, which was either the start of their artistic practice or remained…

View original post 326 more words

Panel Discussion “We Have Met Before, Revisited” On Friday, October 13 @1:45pm

The National Gallery of Jamaica is pleased to present the panel discussion We Have Met Before, Revisited, which will take place at the National Gallery on Friday, October 13, 2017, starting at 1:45 pm. The discussion is presented as part of the Edna Manley College’s Rex Nettleford Arts Conference 2017, for which the National Gallery serves as a partner institution. The panel discussion will be chaired by Nicole Smythe-Johnson, Independent Curator. The panellists are: Moji Anderson, Lecturer, Sociology, Psychology and Social Work, Faculty of Social Sciences, UWI-Mona; Olayinka Jacobs-Bonnick, British Council Country Director, Jamaica; Leasho Johnson, Jamaican artist in We Have Met Before; and Herbie Miller, Director, Jamaica Music Museum, Institute of Jamaica.

The panel discussion is part of the programming for We Have Met Before, which on view at the National Gallery until November 4, 2017 and which is presented in collaboration with the British Council. The exhibition explores a group of contemporary and artistic interpretations of legacies of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and chattel slavery in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean. Each of the four featured artists – Graham Fagen (Scotland), Joscelyn Gardner (Barbados), Leasho Johnson (Jamaica) and Ingrid Pollard (Guyana/England) – delves into archival material, popular culture and personal perspective to develop and substantiate visual iconographies that present actual and imagined narratives about the African enslaved and their descendants. Combined, their work invites new perspectives and dialogues on what is well-established subject in Caribbean art. We Have Met Before is presented in collaboration with the British Council.

Continue reading