National Gallery of Jamaica Congratulates Dr David Boxer, Other Associates on their National Honours

Dr the Hon. David Boxer, OJ, with artist Hope Brooks, at the conferment ceremony at his home on August 9, 2016

Dr the Hon. David Boxer, OJ, with artist Hope Brooks, at the conferment ceremony at his home on August 9, 2016

The Board, Management and Staff of the National Gallery of Jamaica wish to express their delight at the announcement that the following artists and associates of the National Gallery are among the recipients of the 2016 National Honours, which were announced on Independence Day, August 6. They are: Dr David Boxer, CD, who is conferred with the Order of Jamaica; Senator Thomas Tavares-Finson, QC, Cecil Cooper, and Basil Watson, who are receiving the Order of Distinction (Commander class); and Alexander Cooper, who is receiving the Order of Distinction (Officer rank).

Dr David Wayne Boxer, CD is an eminent Jamaican art historian, curator, artist and collector. He was educated at Cornell University and the Johns Hopkins University, where he obtained his PhD in Art History. Dr Boxer joined the National Gallery of Jamaica in 1975 as Director/Curator and held this position until 1991, when he became Chief Curator. He retired from the National Gallery in 2013. During Dr Boxer’s tenure, the National Gallery developed from a fledgling institution to what is now the largest and most prominent national art museum in the English-speaking Caribbean, with an extensive collection of Jamaican and other art and an active and diverse exhibitions programme. Dr Boxer is widely recognized for his scholarship on Jamaican art, particularly on the work of Edna Manley, the Intuitives and early Jamaican photography, on which he has published extensively. Dr Boxer is also an internationally recognized artist, whose mixed media work addresses postcolonial politics and existential angst by means of complex references to art history and visual culture. Dr Boxer is conferred with the Order of Jamaica for his “invaluable contribution to the National Gallery of Jamaica and the development of Jamaican art.” He was previously conferred with the Order of Distinction (Commander class), and is also the recipient of the Gold Musgrave and Centenary Medals of the Institute of Jamaica. Dr Boxer, who has been ailing, received the Order of Jamaica today, Tuesday, August 9, at a special ceremony at his home.

Senator Thomas Tavares-Finson, CD, QC, Chairman of the NGJ

Senator Thomas Tavares-Finson, CD, QC, Chairman of the NGJ

Senator Thomas George Lewis Tavares-Finson, QC, is a noted Jamaican politician, attorney-at-law and art collector. He was educated at McMaster University; the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London; and the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple. Senator Tavares-Finson has been a nominated commissioner of the Electoral Commission of Jamaica since 2006 and previously served as a member of the Electoral Advisory Committee from 2005-2006. Senator Tavares-Finson is presently the President of the Senate and was called to the Inner Bar earlier this year. He was recently appointed as the Chairman of the National Gallery and had also previously served on its Board. Senator Tavares-Finson is conferred with the Order of Distinction (Commander class) for his “distinguished contribution to the Electoral Commission and the legal profession.”

Cecil Cooper at his studio in November 2015 (photograph courtesy of Donnette Zacca)

Cecil Cooper, CD, at his studio in November 2015 (photograph courtesy of Donnette Zacca)

Cecil Harvey Cooper is a noted and influential Jamaican painter, art educator and singer. Cecil Cooper was educated at the Jamaica School of Art, now the Edna Manley College, and also attended that Art Students League and the School of Visual Arts in New York City. He served as the head of the Painting department of the Edna Manley College from 1981 to his retirement in 2009. He has exhibited widely in Jamaica and internationally and his work is represented in major art collections, including the National Gallery of Jamaica collection. Cecil Cooper is also a classical tenor, renowned for his powerful voice and operatic delivery. He has previously served as a Board member of the National Gallery of Jamaica and was recently reappointed to the Board. Cecil Cooper is conferred with the Order of Distinction (Commander class) for his “invaluable contribution to the arts.”

Basil Watson CD

Basil Watson, CD

Basil Barrington Watson is an internationally recognized Jamaican sculptor who was educated at what is now the Edna Manley College. Basil Watson, who is also a superb draughtsman, is acclaimed for his daringly balanced, dynamic depictions of the human form. His many public and private art commissions in Jamaica including the statues of Merlene Ottey and Herb McKenley at the National Stadium; the sculpture “Balance” at the Doctors Cave Bathing Club in Montego Bay; and various sculpture commissions for the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica, including “Emerging Nation” in Holruth Park. Mr  Watson has previously served on the National Gallery Board. He is the son of the late Prof. the Hon. Barrington Watson, OJ, Jamaican master painter. Basil Watson is conferred with the Order of Distinction (Commander class) for his “outstanding contribution in the field of Jamaican art.”

Alexander Cooper, OD, at this studio

Alexander Cooper, OD, at this studio

Joshua Alexander Cooper is a major Jamaican painter who emerged during the Independence period. He was an early student of the then Jamaica School of Art and Craft in the 1950s and also attended the New York School of Visual Art and the Art Student League. While his diverse oeuvre also includes gestural abstractions, Alexander Cooper is today best known for his whimsical depictions of street life in Downtown Kingston in times past. Mr Cooper has previously served on the National Gallery Board. Alexander Cooper is receiving the Order of Distinction (Officer rank) for his “outstanding contribution to the arts.”

The Board, Management and Staff of the National Gallery of Jamaica extend their heartfelt congratulations to Dr David Boxer, Senator Tom Tavares-Finson, Cecil Cooper, Basil Watson and Alexander Cooper on their well-earned National Honours.

Kingston: Stories to Tell

Here is the final of our features on the Kingston – Part 1: The City and Art exhibition:

In addition to concrete structures and infrastructures, stories from the documented and lived experiences of generations of Kingston inhabitants and visitors, contribute to this city’s character, to its celebrity and its infamy. The events, personalities and tales that have shaped this city are part of its collective imagery and have provided major inspiration for artists, some of whom are themselves among the city’s key personalities. A variety of stories have already been explored in the preceding galleries. However, this section focuses on a distinct selection of narratives that are particularly relevant to Kingston events and experiences.

Kingston and its environs have been the sites of some of the deadliest natural disasters in human history and this has been recognized and recorded by documenters and artists alike. The apocalyptic destruction of Port Royal in 1692, was re-imagined by Carl Abrahams in several works produced in the mid-1970s. The 1907 earthquake which almost obliterated Kingston is memorialized forever by several archival photographs from the period which can be found at institutions such as the National Library of Jamaica, another Downtown Kingston institution situated on East Street. Despair in the aftermath of Hurricane Charlie, the deadliest storm of 1951, is expressed in two oil paintings created in the same year by poet and playwright Roger Mais, and his seemingly broken and dejected figures are almost camouflaged within the debris left in the storm’s wake, becoming one with the devastation.

Several works in this section comment critically on the social life of Kingston. The works of Roy Reid, Edna Manley and later, Stanford Watson and Ikem Smith for instance, question ongoing issues of social inequality, economic downturn, violence and civil unrest. Michael Parchment’s No Woman Nuh Cry (2005), a visualization of the 1975 reggae ballad of the same name performed by Bob Marley and the Wailers, reiterates that critical value of endurance in the face of adversity and atrocity resulting from the wave of violence that permeated Jamaica’s inner-cities in the 1970s. Interestingly, the reggae music and the visual arts communities have benefitted greatly from the creative insights of personages like Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer and a number of other Jamaican musicians, many of whom originated from Kingston or migrated to the city to seek their fortune at Kingston’s active entertainment scene and recording studios. It was in Kingston at the National Stadium on Arthur Wint Drive that the historic One Love Peace Concert took place in April 1978. The concert took place during the climax of a deadly political war between gang supporters of the People’s National Party (PNP) and the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP). Jamaican photographer Howard Moo-Young captures on film the most memorable highlight of the show, when Bob Marley during his performance of the song Jammin invited the two political leaders to the stage—the then Prime Minister Michael Manley of the People’s National Party and the then Leader of the Opposition, Edward Seaga of the Jamaica Labour Party–and encouraged them to join hands before the audience as a symbolic gesture towards peace and unity.

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Kingston: Institutions and Collections

Phannel Toussiant - National gallery of Jamaica, Devon House (rgb)

Phannel Toussaint – National gallery Ballroom, Devon House (1980), Collection: NGJ

Here is another feature on the Kingston – Part 1: The City and Art exhibition:

As we speak of “crossroads” and opportunities, we have to recognize that Kingston is also the centre of cultural infrastructure in Jamaica. This includes the two main visual arts institutions, the Edna Manley College and the National Gallery of Jamaica, and several major corporate art collections. Jamaica’s main private art collections are also located in Kingston. This Kingston-centeredness is slowly changing as governmental and corporate authorities as well as other private interests have been employing strategies to de-centralize the infrastructural dominance of Kingston. The 2014 establishment of the Montego Bay Cultural Centre, which houses the National Gallery of Jamaica’s Montego Bay branch National Gallery West, is one such example. That being said, this section of the exhibition acknowledges a selection of those Kingston-based entities that have been key pillars for the development of visual art practice and promotion in Jamaica, and have also contributed to urban development and renewal.

Devon House

Sidney McLaren – Devon House (1979), Collection: NGJ

The Institute of Jamaica, which was established in 1879, is the oldest cultural institution in Jamaica and has been pivotal in the development of national art exhibition programming and art educational opportunities, especially from the 1930s to the present. The National Gallery of Jamaica has its origins in the pioneering art collecting and exhibition programmes of the Institute and presently operates as one of its divisions. Established in 1974 at Devon House on Hope Road and then relocated to the Roy West Building on the Kingston Waterfront in 1982, the National Gallery of Jamaica functions as the custodian of carefully developed collections of Jamaican art, representing more than ten centuries of artistic history in our country. Other Institute of Jamaica divisions that have been involved in the visual arts are the Junior Centre and the National Library of Jamaica, before the latter attained autonomy. The Junior Centre hosted Edna Manley’s seminal free adult art classes that started in 1939 and served as a meeting place for the members of the emerging nationalist school, and it continues to offer children’s art programmes today.

Whitney Miller - Little North Street (rgb)

Whitney Miller – Little North Street (1963), Collection: Edna Manley College

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Kingston: Art on the Streets

Here is another feature on the themes that structure the Kingston – Part 1: The City and Art exhibition, written by the exhibition curator, Monique Barnett-Davidson:

A simple bus commute or walking tour of the city can bring one into an even more direct engagement with Kingston’s artistic heritage. Street and public art proliferate in the city, whether as officially commissioned statues, monuments and murals, or more informal expressions on community walls, vehicles or vending stalls. These works are experienced on a daily basis by the people who use, traverse, relax or congregate around these spaces and often command their surroundings as iconic landmarks.

As Jamaica’s capital, Kingston is home to a number of public monuments. Their narratives reflect memories of historic triumph, expressions of hope in the face of adversity, or simply reflection in the wake of tragedy; exemplified by Edna Manley’s Negro Aroused sculpture, the monuments of the National Heroes Park, and the Secret Gardens monument, which are all located in Downtown Kingston. Secret Gardens was commissioned by the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation, the local government authority, to commemorate children who die under tragic or violent circumstances and the local media recently reported that no more space was left to add further names—a very sad reflection of the vulnerability of children in Jamaican society.

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Kingston: Crossroads

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

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

Here is another feature on our current exhibition, Kingston – Part 1: The City and Art, which opened on July 31. It was written by the exhibition curator, Monique Barnett-Davidson:

Like any major capital city, Kingston is a proverbial land of opportunity and a microcosm of social development in Jamaica. And like its predecessor Port Royal, it is a point of intersection, the juncture of a myriad of commercial and cultural pathways. One needs to look no further than the intensely trade- and business-oriented areas of Downtown, the Waterfront, our natural harbour (the seventh largest in the world), or the Crossroads and Half Way Tree areas. Artists have always been active participants and beneficiaries in these intersections, by participating in these exchanges and commercial opportunities, and by representing them in their work.

This section features pre-twentieth century itinerant artists such as Frenchman Adolphe Duperly, who operated his commercial photography and lithography studio, Adolphe Duperly and Son, at 85 King Street in Kingston. Duperly published a number of images of early Jamaican places, people and events such as the Daguerian Excursions (c1844), a series of lithographs of island scenes that were originally produced as daguerrotypes. Duperly is generally credited as the one who introduced photographic technology to Jamaica in the 1840s.

Duperly also collaborated with the Kingston-born lithographer and painter, Isaac Mendes Belisario who is famous for his 1837-1838 lithograph publications Sketches of Character in Illustration of the Habits, Occupation and Costume of the Negro Population in the Island of Jamaica. Despite the problematic ideological questions raised by Belisario’s images, the Christmas Amusements and Cries of Kingston have become icons of heritage that inform the memory of our enslaved, apprenticed, and later emancipated Jamaican fore-parents, as they worked and celebrated the gift of life and culture during times of great colonial oppression. Continue reading

Kingston – Nature’s Bounty

Hilton Nembhard - Rasta Head (rgb)

Hilton Nembhard – Rasta Head (c1970), Collection: NGJ

Here is the first of five sectional introductions to the main themes in the Kingston – Part 1: The City and Art exhibition, which opened on July 31. The sectional introductions were written by the exhibition curator, Monique Barnett-Davidson, Assistant Curator at the NGJ:

Natural resources have been used for the creation of artworks in Jamaica for all of the island’s known history. The Jamaican Taino and their ancestors, who had begun settling in the island from as early as circa 650 AD, utilized wood, charcoal, plant fibres, animal bone, stone and clays. Later arrivals to the island, mainly Europeans and Africans, also imported and syncretised art-making traditions and techniques and in doing so made great use of the natural bounty this land of wood and water had to offer. The objects featured in this section explore the use by local artists of four materials that are available in Kingston and its environs: tortoise shell, wood, alabaster gypsum, and clay.

Turtle Shell Casket 3 (rgb)

Rectangular Tortoise Shell Casket with Two Combs (1679), Collection: NGJ

The 17th century tortoise shell objects in this exhibition exemplify a creative industry that thrived in Port Royal Jamaica from circa 1672 to 1692, until the earthquake disaster. The name “tortoise” is a misnomer, since these objects are made from sea turtle shells while tortoises are their land-dwelling relatives. Four species of sea turtle that appear in Jamaica’s coastal waters but the shell most suitable for the creation of these objects is the Hawksbill Turtle shell. The tradition of using these shells to create decorative objects no longer continues, as the animals are now legally protected. However, one cannot deny the mastery and elegance of the examples featured in this exhibition. The Port Royal tortoise shell objects, most of them coomb cases and trinket boxes, appear to have been produced as mementoes and have their place of origin and production year inscribed on them. Some also feature early versions of Jamaica’s Coat of Arms. It has been argued that they qualify as Jamaica’s first examples of “tourist art.”

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