The National Gallery of Jamaica (NGJ) is pleased to announce the homecoming of the exhibition John Dunkley: Neither Day nor Night April 29-July 29, 2018 after its eight-month run at the Pérez Art Museum in Miami (PAMM) where it was hailed as one of “the most exciting museum shows around the US in 2017”.
Little in the history of Western art prepares us for Dunkley, wrote the late Dr David Boxer (1946-2017), Dunkley historian and curatorial advisor to PAMM. “There is a hypnotic rhythmic intensity in Dunkley’s paintings that is alien to English and American masters,” John Dunkley (b. 1891, Savanna-la-Mar — d. 1947, Kingston) is considered one of Jamaica’s first and finest ‘Intuitive’ or self-taught artists and the title of the show is a reference to his work’s idiosyncratic mood and palette: detailed, haunting imageries of landscapes, with psychologically and psycho-sexually suggestive underpinnings.
Though a selection of Dunkley’s work is on permanent display at the NGJ, only 50 paintings by Dunkley exist in the world. The exhibition’s return home then gives local audiences the rare opportunity to see this collection of thirty-four (34) paintings and nine (9) sculptures together for the first time since the NGJ Retrospective of his work in 1976.
Aside from his inclusion in the 1939 World’s Fair in San Francisco and the NGJ/Smithsonian travelling exhibition of 1983, Dunkley’s work was relatively unknown in the United States until PAMM’s light shone on Dunkley as a beacon of modern and contemporary art from the Caribbean. The Miami exhibition, organized by Curators Diana Nawi, former Associate Curator at PAMM along with Nicole Smythe-Johnson, independent curator, received rave reviews from ArtForum, Miami Rail, The Huffington Post, among others and art critic Matthew Higgs lamented the fact that he would have included it in his Best of 2017 list had he seen it sooner.
Smythe-Johnson, assisted by the NGJ Curatorial team, will oversee the local abridged installation of the show. An accompanying monograph will be published and includes: Dr David Boxer’s last essay, which brings together over forty years of research into Dunkley’s life and work; an essay by Olive Senior that contextualises Dunkley within his historical moment; and an essay by the exhibition’s curators.
The monograph and the exhibition together present not only what Dunkley has been for Jamaica and the region, but also what he could become for the world.
Phillip Rhoden - Orange Street (2010). The NGJ building is on the left. Phillip Rhoden, an EMC graduate in Visual Communication, is the NGJ's Graphic Designer and AV Specialist.
The National Gallery of Jamaica blog went live one year ago, on October 17, 2009, with our first post in which we outlined our intention for it to “serve as a vehicle for gallery news and information on Jamaican art and artists.” Since then, we have published 75 posts, on individual artists, most of them Jamaican, and on various NGJ projects and programmes, and we have logged more than 41,000 views. Our record day, thus far, was September 22, 2010, when we had 556 views, and our current daily average stands at 260 views. We think that these statistics are not bad at all for an institution which was a novice to social media one year ago and the experience has certainly exceeded our expectations. Continue reading
David Miller Snr. - Talisman (c1940), Collection: National Gallery of Jamaica, Aaron and Marjorie Matalon Collection
As we continue the work of reinstalling our permanent exhibitions, we have recently reopened our Early Intuitives gallery, as the first gallery of the modern Jamaican art exhibition to be completed. This gallery features the work of three artists, John Dunkley, David Miller Snr. and David Miller Jnr. We have already presented a post on John Dunkley and now present one on two the Millers who were, like Dunkley, based in downtown Kingston, where they lived and worked at 8 Bray Street.
David Miller Snr. began his career in the early years of the twentieth century as a carver of curios for the tourist trade. His earliest known works are fully within the late nineteenth century tradition of “coconut shell carving” where decorative floral motifs were etched into the hard shell of the coconut which had been fashioned into a lidded container. During the early twenties he was carving curios in wood; these were principally “negro heads” and a variety of animals. Continue reading
John Dunkley, Banana Plantation (c1945)
While we have temporarily closed the Early Intuitives gallery, to facilitate the next phase of the re-installation of our permanent collection, we present a post on one of the three artists featured in that gallery, John Dunkley (the others are David Miller Senior and Junior). The first part of this post is excerpted from what his widow Cassie Dunkley wrote in 1948, on the first anniversary of her husband’s death, when a commemorative exhibition was held at the Institute of Jamaica. It narrates Dunkley’s early and obviously quite adventurous life as a young Jamaican migrant worker and sailor, followed by his years in Kingston as a struggling artist. The the second part is adapted from a biographical entry written for the Dictionary of Black Artists by NGJ Chief Curator, Dr. David Boxer. John Dunkley was born in Savanna-la-Mar on December 10, 1891 and died in Kingston on February 17, 1947.