As part of our programming for Black History Month, the National Gallery of Jamaica (NGJ) will be hosting a special event on Saturday February 17, 2018, at 1:30 pm entitled 21ST Century Kapo. Mallica “Kapo” Reynolds is considered to be Jamaica’s foremost Intuitive artists; and the newly reinstalled gallery features a selection of sculptures and paintings from the Larry Wirth Collection, the John Pringle Collection and the Aaron and the Marjorie Matalon Collection. The works in these galleries showcase the broad subject matter and iconography that Kapo explored and highlight the cultural significance of this artist.

The Kapo Gallery – which is one of only two NGJ galleries that are dedicated to single artists – was reopened on January 28 after being closed for almost a year; 21st Century Kapo will give the public an opportunity to learn more about this artist and engage in a discussion of his legacy and relevance to Jamaicans today.

21ST Century Kapo will feature a special screening of the archival film, Kapo the Artist, which first aired on BBC TWO in 1986. In it Kapo speaks about his life and work as an artist and Revivalist leader, it features commentary by Dr. David Boxer, Professor Rex Nettleford and Ambassador Dudley Thompson among others. The screening will be followed by a short, candid discussion between Dr. Clinton Hutton, Professor of Caribbean Political Philosophy, Culture and Aesthetics (University of the West Indies, Mona) and NGJ Senior Curator, O’Neil Lawrence.

Attendance to 21ST Century Kapo is free of cost and is open to the public. Visitors are being encouraged to view the newly reinstalled galleries prior to the beginning of the discussion.


Mallica “Kapo” Reynolds (1911-1989)

Kapo - Deryck Robert

Kapo at his Revival Yard, surrounded by several sculptures from the Larry Wirth Collection, c1983 - Photo: Deryck Roberts

On Tuesday, November 17, the NGJ will open an exhibition of work by Mallica “Kapo” Reynolds from its permanent collection, under the title “Selections from the Kapo Collection”. This exhibition temporarily replaces what used to be known as the Larry Wirth Gallery of Kapo’s work, which is currently closed for refurbishing and will reopen as the Kapo Galleries in early 2011, as was explained in the previous post. Below is a short biographic tribute Kapo, written by the NGJ’s Chief Curator, David Boxer, and starting with an excerpt from an autobiographic account by Kapo from the NGJ archives.

“I was born 1911 the 10th day of February in Byndloss, St. Catherine. My father’s name was David Reynolds, my mother’s name before marriage was Rebecca Morgan. My father married her when I was nine years old. At the age of 12, I received the Spirit of Conversion. I was then reading in Fifth Standard. At the age of 16 I left school; I was not bad at reading. I did not love drawing. Drawing days I used to prefer to go and work in the garden. Before the death of all my sisters and brothers, we all used to play together, go to Church and school. I can remember as far back as my creeping days, and forty years ago when I started as a self-taught artist, scraping on a stone with homemade tools, never having seen before a piece of sculpture in any medium. Then I started working steadfastly without any instruction. Happily for me guiding lights appeared in my life – a number of prominent men who took interest in my work and encouraged me.” — Kapo

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Mallica “Kapo” Reynolds in the NGJ Collection

Reynolds. Mallica Kapo - Be Still, 1970 - NGJ

Mallica "Kapo" Reynolds, Be Still, 1970, Larry Wirth Collection, NGJ

This is the first of two posts on Mallica “Kapo” Reynolds. In this segment, we focus on Kapo’s work in the collections of the NGJ. The second post will focus on his biography.

In 1974, when the National Gallery of Jamaica was established and the collections of modern Jamaican art transferred from the Institute of Jamaica, Kapo in terms of numbers was one of the better represented artists. There were five sculptures and seven paintings but the quality was uneven and there had been little attempt at exploring the wide range of Kapo’s iconography, his subject matter. While the fledgling National Gallery went on to acquire two further paintings directly from the artist – the large Orange Paradise and the superb Silent Night, Kapo’s unique treatment of the traditional Christmas nativity scene – it was clear that the very best Kapos of the previous decades resided in private collections. In Jamaica none could rival the collection deposited in the rooms and public spaces of the Stony Hill Hotel, domain of the inveterate Kapo collector, Larry Wirth.

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Isaac Mendez Belisario, Sketches of Character: French Set Girls (1837-38)

Isaac Mendez Belisario, Sketches of Character: French Set Girls (1837-38)

In 2008, the NGJ started reorganizing and re-installing its permanent exhibitions, which are now all located on the second floor of the building, while the first floor is reserved for temporary exhibitions. The re-installation reflects new exhibition practices in art galleries and museums and is designed to be more engaging and visitor-friendly. Among others, we are providing more contextual information by means of text panels and we are also challenging some of the common views about Jamaican art, culture and history, by means of provocative juxtapositions.

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