Coming Up – Explorations 3: Seven Women Artists

The Explorations III: Seven Women Artists exhibition, which will open at the NGJ on Sunday, May 31, asks the question whether any concept of women’s art is relevant in Jamaica today – it is part of our Explorations series, which examines the big themes and issues in Jamaican art, the first of which was Natural Histories (2013) and the second: Religion and Spirituality in Jamaican art.

Seven Women Artists, which is curated by Senior Curator O’Neil Lawrence, features the work of seven mid-career female artists who live in Jamaica or art part of its diaspora and who work in a variety of media: Jasmine Thomas-Girvan, Judith Salmon, Miriam Smith, Prudence Lovell, Kereina Chang-Fatt, Berette Macauley and Amy Laskin – a small but representative sample of accomplished female Jamaican artists. We invite viewers to explore whether there are any commonalities that set these artists’ work and careers apart from those of their male counterparts and whether there is any justification to label them, individually or collectively, as “women artists,” or their work as “women’s art.” We have also asked each of the artists to produce a statement on the subject that will be reproduced in the catalogue and the exhibition text panels.

Jasmine Thomas-Girvan - None but Ourselves (2015)

Jasmine Thomas-Girvan – None but Ourselves (2015)

The sculptural and sometimes wearable work of jeweller Jasmine Thomas-Girvan explores the complexities of Jamaican and Caribbean histories as well as the cultural implications of those histories.    Her spectacularly surreal assemblages often employ or are inspired by naturally occurring plant matter and oftentimes actively utilise found objects that have a personal resonance with the artist. Her work None but Ourselves references the intellectual legacy of Marcus Garvey highlighting the importance of the transmission of liberating values to the next generation.

Judith Salmon - Pockets of Memory (2012)

Judith Salmon – Pockets of Memory (2012)

The dynamics of memory are at the heart of the installation and assemblage work of Judith Salmon. Salmon who creates work that has, in some instances, involved an element of interactivity for instance Pockets of Memory (which invited viewers to leave notes or other things that had personal significance and made the audience a part of the creative process) explores the way in which memories are preserved obscured or lost over time. She utilises fibre, wax and various printmaking techniques to create work that contains multiple conceptual and also physical layers.

Miriam Smith - Justice Denied (2014)

Miriam Smith – Justice Denied (2014)

Miriam Smith is known for her mixed media artwork prioritised by her manipulation of fibres and textiles. Her work also reflects her experience of bookbinding, some in the form of actual books are often symbolic pages weaving a personal history that highlights life changing experiences but is also at its heart very much concerned with historical and contemporary social injustices. The multi-panelled work Justice Denied…1600 and Still Counting reflects that focus and challenges the viewer to do the same.

Prudence Lovell - Untitled (Connected III) (2015)

Prudence Lovell – Untitled (Connected III) (2015)

Prudence Lovell, an artist who’s widely ranging concerns coalesce in a number of stunning drawings and collages. To paraphrase her own words Lovell explores ‘the history and potential for allusion’ found in art as well as the various ‘truths’ found in documentary images. The ambiguities and disjunctions that occur due to the immediacy of photographic and other digital imagery and seeming reliability of these images and the often result in a rupture between perception and reality. Her most recent work, such as Untitled (Connected II), is based on Skype conversations with her children, who are studying overseas, and address the moderated reality of online connections, in terms of the ambiguities of the simultaneous experiences and realities of proximity and distance. Continue reading

WHAT WE HAVE IN STORE FOR YOU – UPCOMING EXHIBITIONS

Judith Salmon, Palimpsests (2014, detail)

Judith Salmon, Palimpsests (2014, detail)

Now that the Jamaica Biennial 2014 is behind us, we are pleased to let you know what we have in store for the rest of the year, in terms of exhibitions.

The first major exhibition will be Explorations III: Seven Women Artists, which is scheduled to open on May 31 and features work by Kereina Chang-Fatt, Berette Macaulay, Amy Laskin, Prudence Lovell, Judith Salmon, Jasmine Thomas-Girvan and Miriam Hinds-Smith, seven mid-career artists who are highly accomplished but who have not yet received significant national attention. This exhibition is presented as the third edition of our Explorations series, which started in 2013 with Natural Histories and explores the major issues and themes in our collection and in Jamaican art. Explorations III: Seven Women Artists asks whether the notion of women’s art is relevant in Jamaica today and how the work of female artists has been and is positioned vis-à-vis the conventional artistic hierarchies in Jamaica.

Amy Laskin - Flora and Coral Collaborate (2014)

Amy Laskin – Flora and Coral Collaborate (2014)

This will be followed by Young Talent 2015, which will feature the work of six to eight artists under forty years old. The Young Talent exhibitions, which were inaugurated in 1985, are designed to unearth and encourage new and emerging artists and to provide a platform for the development of contemporary art in Jamaica. The call for submissions can be found here – please note that deadline for submissions has Young Talent 2015 has been extended to Friday, June 26 and that the exhibition is now scheduled to open on August 30.

Banana Man

Alvin Marriott – Banana Man (1955, Collection: NGJ

Our final exhibition for the year will be Explorations IV: Masculinities which is scheduled to open on December 7. Masculinities, which is being curated by O’Neil Lawrence, explores the representation of masculinity in Jamaican art, with a special focus on works of art from our collection, and relates these representations to the dominant and alternative constructions of masculinity, personhood and nationhood that have emerged in pre- and post-independence Jamaica. Continue reading

What is a Biennial? Part I – The Matter of Origins

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We are pleased to present the first of this two-part contribution by writer and curator Nicole Smythe-Johnson, who has joined the Jamaica Biennial 2014 as project manager:

On the occasion of the NGJ’s 40th Anniversary, and the unveiling of its re-structured flagship exhibition – The Jamaica Biennial, I thought it might be worth pausing to ask: “What is a Biennial?”

Seems like a simple enough question, and at first I thought I had the equally simple answer. When people asked, and they often did, I replied confidently: “It’s a sort of mega-exhibition, mounted every two years, that focuses on art made in a particular place/region in the previous two or so years.” I would even think to myself: “Surely the name is self-explanatory?”

It became more complicated though. More questions came: Who are we mounting this show for? Who needs to keep abreast of what art is being made in Jamaica, or Sao Paolo, or Havana? What of the visiting (or “international”, as they’ve come to be known) artists or curators? They are not locals, where do they fit? Is this about showing “local art” to “internationals”, or showing “international art” to “locals”? And to what end? Where did this “Biennial” thing come from? And why is a Biennial sometimes a Biennale? I’ll try to give you the abridged version.

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At the entrance of the Giardini, Venice Biennale (photo source: Wikicommons)

Most trace the origins of the biennial exhibition back to the Venice Biennale in Italy (turns out Biennale is just Biennial in Italian, and is sometimes used to reference non-Italian Biennial art exhibitions in homage to that first “La Biennale”). Some go back further, to the mid nineteenth century when Europe was riveted by universal expositions. Most notably, the Great Exhibition of 1851 at Hyde Park in London, which sought to house (and order) the world’s newly discovered cultural, industrial and geographic diversity in a grand Crystal Palace. The Crystal Palace and its particular perspective on global multiplicity, as well as its confident assumption of the authority to display and classify that multiplicity is the subject of much literature, but it was in this climate of flexing imperial muscle that the first Venice Biennale opened in 1895.

It started out much like the 2014 Jamaica Biennial. What was conceived as a biennial exhibition of Italian art, quickly evolved into a largely by-invitation exhibition, with a section reserved for international artists, and a jury that selected works from submissions by local (i.e. Italian) artists. Until 1905 the Biennial was confined to the Central Pavilion, then the Pro Arte building. There, work from invited and juried Italian artists, and international (read European) artists were exhibited with no internal division.

Given the success of the first exhibition, the Biennial invited other nations to establish their own national pavilions in the Giardini– the park in which the Central Pavilion is located- to exhibit work exclusively by artists from the various nations. In 1907, the first of the 29 permanent national pavilions in the Giardini was constructed by Belgium. By 1914, Hungary (1909), Germany (1909), Great Britain (1909), France (1912), and Russia (1914) had joined.

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Last Sundays, October 26, 2014, featuring In Retrospect Exhibition and Maurice Gordon and Pimento

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The National Gallery’s Last Sundays programme for October 2014 is scheduled for Sunday, October 26, from 11 am to 4 pm, and will feature the In Retrospect: 40 Years of the National Gallery of Jamaica exhibition and a musical performance by the Pimento trio, featuring Maurice Gordon.

The In Retrospect: 40 Years of the National Gallery of Jamaica exhibition opened on August 31 and represents the first major event in the National Gallery’s 40th anniversary celebrations. In Retrospect tells the story of the National Gallery through its exhibitions and publications, through major donations, and through the debates that have surrounded the Gallery from its earliest years, with a special focus on the Gallery’s role in articulating how Jamaican art is understood. The exhibition consists mainly of key works from the Gallery’s collection and invites viewers to respond to these works in the context of the National Gallery’s own history. In Retrospect closes on November 15 and is thus in its final weeks.

The Pimento trio, which is scheduled to start at 1:30 pm, plays contemporary jazz, flavored with hints of reggae, R&B, funk, rock and fusion. The trio is headed by the noted guitarist and composer Maurice Gordon, who is acclaimed for his fluid technique, dexterity and highly personal style and cites as his influences Charlie Christian, Wes Montgomery, Miles Davis, George Benson and Bob Marley. Maurice Gordon has performed at festivals in the Caribbean including Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival, St. Lucia and Martinique Jazz Festivals, Ramajay Festival (Trinidad), Grenada Spice Jazz Festival.

As is now customary for Last Sundays, admission to the NGJ will be free on Sunday, October 26, and guided tours and children’s activities will also be offered free of cost. Our 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 In Retrospect exhibition and our Last Sundays programming.

JAMAICA BIENNIAL 2014 – bulletin # 1

Shoshanna Weinberger - Collection of Strangefruit - on view in the 2012 Biennial

Shoshanna Weinberger – Collection of Strangefruit – on view in the 2012 Biennial

Work on the re-branded and re-conceptualized Jamaica Biennial, formerly the National Biennial, is progressing well and the exhibition is scheduled to open with a week of events from December 6 to 14, 2014.

As before, the exhibition comprises a juried section, which is open to all artists living in Jamaica and Jamaican artists and artists of immediate descent living elsewhere, and an invited section, which includes artists with a well-established record of exhibitions and critical response. In a departure from its previous, national focus and a first major step towards internationalizing the Biennial, a select number of international artists have also been invited to contribute special projects, namely Simon Fujiwara (UK/Japan), Renee Cox (Jamaica/USA), Richard Mark Rawlins (Trinidad), Sheena Rose (Barbados), Blue Curry (Bahamas/UK) and James Cooper (Bermuda). For the first time, also the Biennial is operating from more than one venue. In addition to the National Gallery of Jamaica in downtown Kingston, this will include National Gallery West in Montego Bay and Devon House in Kingston. The 2014 Biennial also involves a collaboration with the Edna Manley College on Simon Fujiwara’s project, which will be created at the College and transferred from there, in the context of a performance, to the National Gallery in downtown Kingston.

Devon House

Devon House

More information on the special projects, the opening week events, and what will be shown at each of the exhibition venue will be shared in future bulletins but in this first bulletin we are focusing on the juried section, for which entries are closing later today, October 17. Thus far, we have logged some 150 entries and we are expecting more by the close of day. The judging will be conducted this weekend and, as part of the reorganization of the Biennial, the entries to the juried section will from now on be adjudged by two international judges, who will bring a fresh perspective to the work submitted and who will also help to raise the international profile of the exhibition. For the 2014 edition, these judges are Diana Nawi and Sara Hermann, both well-respected curators and art historians with extensive regional and international experience.

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In Retrospect – Section 6: MAJOR DONATIONS

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Here is the final sectional panel from the ‘In Retrospect: 40 Years of the National Gallery of Jamaica‘ exhibition. The exhibition continues until November 15, 2014.

The National Gallery has received many donations to its collection over the years, and this is perhaps the main reason the collection has grown to its present size and quality, despite very limited resources. The present exhibition cannot feature all donations the National Gallery has received over the last forty years but highlights of three major ones can be viewed on the mezzanine, circulating area and adjoining galleries, namely:

A.D. Scott Collection: in 1990, the National Gallery received 38 major works from the most important private collection of the 1960s and 70s, namely the collection of A.D. Scott, a well-known civil engineer and art patron and the founder and operator of the Olympia International Art Centre, which opened in 1974. The collection reflects Scott’s close association with the key figures in post-Independence art in Jamaica, namely the principals of the Contemporary Jamaican Artists Association Barrington Watson, Eugene Hyde and Karl Parboosingh, but also other major figures such as Carl Abrahams, Edna Manley, Albert Huie, Osmond Watson and Christopher Gonzalez, who are all represented in this section with major examples of their work.

Aaron and Marjorie Matalon Collection: Aaron Matalon, a leading entrepreneur of the post-Independence period, was a major patron of the arts and the National Gallery’s Chairman from 1993 to 2002. In 1999, Mr Matalon and his spouse donated a collection of 218 works of art, the largest and arguable most important donation to be received by the Gallery. The Matalon Collection includes prints and other works of art from the colonial period, starting with the earliest published map of Jamaica, and modern Jamaican art. A significant portion of the Aaron and Marjorie Matalon collection is on permanent view in the historical galleries but this section features a selection of the modern works.

Guy McIntosh Donation: The most recent major donation received by the National Gallery came from art dealer and collector Guy McIntosh and consisted of 80 works of art, mainly by artists who had come to prominence in the 1980s and 90s, such as Milton George and Omari Ra.

Several other major donations remain in their usual place in the permanent galleries and we invite you to view them there. One is the Edna Manley Memorial Collection, which the result of a major campaign for donations after Edna Manley’s passing in 1989, with major donations coming from of Michael Manley, Burnett Webster, A.D. Scott, Aaron and Marjorie Matalon, David Boxer, Wallace Campbell, the Pan-Jamaican Investment Fund and the ICD Group – these works can be seen in the Edna Manley Galleries. Another major donation was the John Pringle Collection, a group of 23 paintings by Mallica ‘Kapo’ Reynolds from the estate of the John Pringle, Jamaica’s first Director of Tourism and the founder of Round Hill Hotel and Villas. This collection was received in 2011 and a selection can be seen in the Kapo Galleries.