Video – Portraits and Abstraction: A Conversation

Portraits and Abstraction: A Conversation from National Gallery of Jamaica on Vimeo.

 

On March 29, 2018 the National Gallery of Jamaica held a panel discussion Portraits and Abstraction: A Conversation with the curators of Explorations V: Portraits in Dialogue and Explorations VI: Engaging Abstraction. It was moderated by independent curator Nicole Smythe-Johnson and the speakers were O’Neil Lawrence (Senior Curator) and Monique Barnett-Davidson (Assistant Curator) respectively.

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Panel Discussion “Portraits and Abstraction: A Conversation” On Thursday March 29 @ 1:30 pm

On Thursday, March 29, 2018, the National Gallery of Jamaica will be hosting a panel discussion entitled Portraits and Abstraction: A Conversation at 1:30 pm. This event will function as a reflection on our most recent exhibitions Explorations V: Portraits in Dialogue and Explorations VI: Engaging Abstraction, which ran from December 19, 2017 to March 25, 2018. The discussion will be moderated by independent writer and curator Nicole Smythe-Johnson and will feature Senior Curator O’Neil Lawrence and Assistant Curator, Monique Barnett-Davidson, curators of the latest installments in the National Gallery’s Explorations exhibition series which was initiated in 2013.

Portraits in Dialogue examined 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. Engaging Abstraction examined abstraction as a modern image making approach that deviates from the more literal and popularized representational choices practiced by artists from Jamaica, the Caribbean and its Diaspora. The significant impact of abstraction on Jamaican and Caribbean art can seen in our collection which features numerous works of art that qualify as abstract, or at least as abstracted.

The exhibitions presented the foundations of two distinct yet dominant groups of representational choices practiced by artists, choices that can still be observed in contemporary artwork. Whether treated as separate disciplines or hybridized through a plethora of media, contemporary artists essentially make one of the two choices to explore an immense diversity of subject matter which include the social, the corporeal or the philosophical. The curators of the National Gallery of Jamaica have reflected upon these concepts and ideas throughout some of its most recent and successful exhibitions and felt that the next edition of the Explorations series should explore these trends as historical continuities that are evidenced in our national collection.

The public forum Portraits and Abstraction: A Conversation is free and open to the public. Brochures for the exhibitions will be on sale in the National Gallery Gift Shop.

Last Sundays March 25, 2018 to feature Tribe Sankofa

The National Gallery of Jamaica’s Last Sundays programming for March will feature a special performance by Tribe Sankofa, presenting from their repertoire: A Tribe Ting. Their production will also include a performance by special guest Jamila Falak. Visitors will have a last opportunity to view our exhibitions Portraits in Dialogue and Engaging Abstraction, both, part of our Explorations series before they close.

Tribe Sankofa

Tribe Sankofa is a performing arts collective brought together by Fabian Thomas and comprised of multi-talented performers. This vibrant and eclectic collective combines their artistry to add an exciting new dimension to the performing arts landscape both locally and globally. Their niche, as described by founder Thomas is seen as “…borrowed and original spoken word/poetry, soulful song styling blended with other visual and performing arts.”

Jamila Falak

The National Gallery’s Explorations V and VI are part of an open ended series of exhibitions that examine major themes and issues in Jamaica’s art and visual culture. Exploration V: Portraits in Dialogue, examines through visual juxtaposition, the complicated and often times political significance of portraiture in Jamaican art. Exploration VI: Engaging Abstraction, offers a look into abstraction as a modern and contemporary image-making approach, of which up until the 1960’s, was considered contradictory to ideas of representation.  The significant impact of abstraction on Jamaica and Caribbean art can be seen in our collection which features numerous works of art that qualify as abstract, or at least abstracted.

As is customary for our Sunday programmes, the doors will open to the public from 11 am to 4 pm, with Tribe Sankofa’s performance at 1:30 pm. Admission is free and free guided tours will be also be available to. Our Gift and Coffee shop will  also be open for business and contributions to the donation box will be welcomed. The revenue from our Gift shop and donation box help to fund programmes such as our Explorations series as well as our Last Sundays programming.

Portraits in Dialogue and Engaging Abstraction exhibitions extended to March 25 !

The National Gallery of Jamaica is pleased to announce that due to popular demand, we will be extending the exhibitions Explorations V: Portraits in Dialogue and Explorations VI: Engaging Abstraction until March 25, 2018.

Last Sundays on January 28, 2018 to feature the EarthKry band

The National Gallery of Jamaica’s Last Sundays programme for the month of January will feature a special musical performance by the EarthKry band. Visitors will also be able to view editions V and VI in our Explorations exhibition series, Portraits in Dialogue and Engaging Abstraction. January 28 will also mark the reopening of the Kapo Galleries.

The EarthKry band, featuring keyboard player Phillip Mcfarlane, drummer Kieron Cunningham, bass guitarist Kamardo Blake and vocalist/guitarist Aldayne Haughton, continues their mission to voice the grievances of the downtrodden through their music. Drawing their inspiration from Bob Marley and The Wailers, The Beatles, John Holt, Black Uhuru and Steel Pulse, the group offers a genre-spanning fresh and universal sound. After the release of their debut album Survival at the end of June in 2017, the group embarked on a successful tour of North America and Europe spreading their message of authentic roots and culture. We welcome back to the National Gallery the EarthKry band as they embark on their Survival Winter Tour 2018.

“We are excited to go back on the road. Recording music for prosperity is important, but to play live is a different feeling and a must. Especially for us as musician, that connection that we feel with those that come to see us, is unparalleled. Each touch of our instruments carries the roots rock and reggae through vibrations directly to them. We are conscious that our music connects with people as worldwide we all go through financial hardships, personal struggles, health issues, war crisis, abuse.” – EarthKry

The EarthKry Band

Portraits in Dialogue offers an open-ended survey of the oftentimes conflicted politics of artistic portraiture in the development of Jamaican art from the 18th century to the present. Issues explored include representations of surrounding race, class, and gender, as well as the perspectives of the artist. The second exhibition, Engaging Abstraction, examines abstraction as a modern and contemporary image-making approach that deviates from the more literal and popularized representational choices practiced by artists from Jamaica, the Caribbean and its Diaspora. The significant impact of abstraction on Jamaican and Caribbean art can be seen in our collection which features numerous works of art that qualify as abstract, or at least as abstracted.

This Last Sundays will also see the reopening of the Kapo Galleries, which celebrate the work of Jamaica’s foremost Intuitive artist Mallica “Kapo” Reynolds. The newly reinstalled gallery features both sculptures and paintings from three of our collections: the Larry Wirth Collection, The John Pringle Collection and the Aaron and Marjorie Matalon Collection. The works showcase the life, interests and spiritual beliefs of this Zion Revivalist leader.

Mallica “Kapo” Reynolds – Revivalists (1969), Larry Wirth Collection, NGJ

As is now customary for our Sunday programmes, the doors will be open to the public from 11 am to 4 pm and EarthKry’s performance starts at 1:30 pm. Admission and guided tours will be free. The gift and coffee shop will also be open for business and 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 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)

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